video thumbnail

MIL@PIT: Burnett throws six frames of two-run ball

PITTSBURGH -- Beaten up by the Brewers less than three weeks ago, the Pirates were intent on making them feel less comfortable at the plate. In baseball vernacular, you do this by getting into their kitchen. The problem was, the Bucs had a long delay before getting into their own bedrooms.

A bigger problem on Tuesday night was Yovani Gallardo, who pitched two-hit ball for 6 2/3 innings and got enough help from an offense slightly stalled by A.J. Burnett's two early hit batters to down the Pirates, 6-0.

The Brewers were definitely comfortable on the bases, stealing seven of them to exploit and highlight a season-long Pirates problem. The haul hiked opponents' numbers to 137 steals in 151 attempts against the Bucs -- and several of those 14 stops were clean pickoffs to first base.

"We're not the only ones they steal on, but they've piled on us on a couple of different occasions," said manager Clint Hurdle, who had no issues with the excessive running. "No, not at all. If you don't like them stealing bases ... get them out."

The victory moved the Brewers, who trailed the Bucs by 12 1/2 games a month ago, one game up on Pittsburgh in the ongoing scramble for the second National League Wild Card playoff spot.

The last time he faced the Pirates, on Sept. 2 in Miller Park, Gallardo was given 11 runs in four innings -- and couldn't survive long enough to qualify for the win, being chased in the fifth.

Hurdle had no trouble identifying the difference in Tuesday night's Gallardo.

"The fastball command, very sharp to left-handers. Better downhill plane, better finish to the breaking ball," he said. "More or less, the complete package we've been watching on videotape, outside of that outing against us. He's been a force to reckon with in the second half."

"You know [the Pirates] came out ready to play," Gallardo said. "We're all in the same situation. It's just that we were able to get a run from A.J. early and I was going out and making my pitches, staying with the game plan and keeping that lead."

Helped by a trio of double plays and far more clutch high-pressure pitches of his own, Burnett battled -- Hurdle's verb of choice was "wrestled" -- to keep it to a 2-0 game through six, his final inning. The Brewers tacked on a couple of two-run innings against the Pirates' bullpen in the seventh and eighth.

"Absolutely not," Burnett replied when asked whether having had to make 35 of his first 51 pitches with men in scoring position emptied his tank at 94 after six. "I'm not a believer in pitch counts.

"I was told I was done. Skip ... That's why he's the manager. He makes those decisions to bring guys in. But I felt great."

No matter how uncomfortable the Burnett pitches that hit Norichika Aoki and Travis Ishikawa -- two of their first six batters -- made the Brewers, they still had to feel more comfortable than the Bucs, who made a long night's journey into day.

After playing in New York on Monday afternoon, the Brewers got to their Pittsburgh hotel at about 9:45 p.m. ET -- or two hours before the delayed first pitch of the Pirates' game in Wrigley Field. The Bucs themselves got home at about 7:15 a.m., finishing second to the rising sun.

Burnett was less concerned with sleep deprivation than with run deprivation. He remains winless for a sixth straight start, but he has received a total of seven runs of support in them. Tuesday night's defeat came on the heels of his 2-1 loss on Wednesday in Cincinnati.

In the first, he hit Aoki with a 1-2 pitch to start the game and saw him steal second on the second pitch to Rickie Weeks. Burnett got out of that mess unscathed but couldn't totally escape a similar jam in the second.

That time the trigger was hitting Ishikawa. Carlos Gomez's single and a walk of Jean Segura loaded the bases with none out. Given those circumstances, getting away with only one run -- on Aoki's single -- felt like a momentum swing.

"Fifty-one pitches in the first two innings, then 43 to finish the next four. ... He absolutely kept us in the game," Hurdle said. "He gave us a chance to win, and as hard as that was to watch, we got the tying run to the plate."

That opening presented itself in the bottom of the seventh, with the score 4-0. Gallardo left behind a bases-loaded situation for reliever Jim Henderson to confront -- along with pinch-hitter Michael McKenry.

McKenry worked the right-hander to a 3-1 count, fouled off a pitch to fill the count, then lifted a pop fly to short right-center that was run down by second baseman Weeks.

Milwaukee had doubled up on Burnett and the Pirates in the sixth, when Segura's RBI single made it 2-0.

The hitting of the Milwaukee batters was certainly not intentional -- it isn't the preferred way to start consecutive innings -- but the inside pitches were. After seeing his pitchers raked for 24 runs in a sweep by the Brewers in Milwaukee earlier this month, Hurdle cited the need to "eliminate their comfort at the plate."

"They've pushed us around for years now," he added. "I know the history. We haven't done [anything to eliminate that comfort]. But we've got to start."

In addition to hitting two batters, Burnett allowed two walks and seven hits in his six innings. It all added up to only two runs, more than enough with Gallardo in the zone.

Nonetheless, the Brewers gave Gallardo a couple more in the seventh, on run-scoring singles off Chad Qualls by Ryan Braun and Lucroy.

After Gallardo departed -- having allowed singles to Barmes and Neil Walker, while walking four and striking out six -- the Brewers kept adding, on Segura's RBI single and Aoki's sacrifice fly in the eighth off Bryan Morris.

MLB.com Comments