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Burnett lifts Bucs in season debut

CBSSports.com wire reports
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PITTSBURGH -- A.J. Burnett's first week with the Pittsburgh Pirates ended with a fractured right orbital bone. His first three rehab starts ended with losses, a gaudy 9.53 ERA and concerns the veteran right-hander couldn't become the ace his new team so desperately needs.

Never mind.

Pitching brilliantly after a shaky first inning, the former New York Yankee pitched three-hit ball for seven innings to lift the Pirates to a 2-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday.

"I've been playing a long time," Burnett said. "I think coming up here was my time to turn my switch on."

Consider it flipped.

Burnett, who missed the first three weeks of the year after the ball smacked off his face during a bunting drill in spring training just days after being traded from the Yankees, walked two and struck out seven while dominating baseball's best offensive team.

"It got silly after awhile just making pitch after pitch," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said.

Joel Hanrahan worked out of a two-on, one-out jam in the ninth for his second save of the season.

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St. Louis starter Jake Westbrook (2-1) gave up a pair of RBI singles to Pedro Alvarez, walking two and striking out six as his ERA moved from 0.64 to 1.31.

"I felt like I made some decent pitches," Westbrook said. "I think they hit a couple balls hard. I still feel good about the way I performed."

Westbrook was solid but Burnett was spectacular, throwing 53 of his 76 pitches for strikes and looking like the No. 1 starter the Pirates envisioned when they traded for him in February.

"I think Pittsburgh got him for the reason he showed tonight," St. Louis third baseman David Freese said. "He was spot-on."

Not a bad debut for a player who woke up planning to pitch at Double-A Altoona for one last rehab start but was activated off the 15-day disabled list in the afternoon when the Pirates scratched starter Kevin Correia because of pain in his side.

Though Burnett struggled during three minor league starts -- Hurdle believed a return to the big leagues would rejuvenate the staff ace.

The 35-year-old certainly looked a little hyped up in his first start in the National League since he pitched for the Marlins in 2005. He walked Rafael Furcal on four pitches, gave up a single to Matt Carpenter and walked Matt Holliday to load the bases with no outs.

Just as the boos started -- perhaps reminding him of his three tumultuous seasons in New York -- Burnett settled down, striking out Carlos Beltran and Freese then getting Yadier Molina to line out to shortstop Clint Barmes to end the threat.

Burnett jumped into the air and pumped his first when Barmes came down with the ball. His jitters out of the way, Burnett mowed down the Cardinals. He retired 12 batters at one point while working efficiently.

"He kept rolling," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "He had a good day. Times we had opportunities to capitalize we didn't get it done."

Burnett's his only real excitement during his last six innings came when he stepped into the batter's box.

Rod Barajas singled with one out in the third, bringing Burnett to the plate in a bunting situation. The crowd roared "no" when Burnett squared up to lay one down, wary Burnett would make himself vulnerable to another ill-fated attempt.

"I thought they were yelling for Rod to `Go'," Burnett said with a laugh. "That's good. It shows they're into it."

Not to worry. Burnett walked on four pitches, getting a relieved round of applause as he trotted to first.

The Cardinals are off to their best start since 2008 thanks to the National League's best offense. St. Louis came in leading the NL in batting average (.287), home runs (20) and hits (142).

Yet the Cardinals mustered little after Burnett settled down. Their best chance to score came in the eighth when they put runners on second and third with one out.

Pittsburgh reliever Tony Watson struck out Carpenter and was replaced by Jason Grilli, who got Holliday to whiff and end the threat.

"Times we had opportunities to capitalize we didn't get it done," Matheny said.

Hanrahan, who hadn't pitched since Sunday due to tightness in his hamstring, issued one-out walks to Freese and Molina in the ninth but struck out Erik Komatsu and Shane Robinson grounded out to third to end it and make Burnett a winner as an NL pitcher for the first time since Aug. 19, 2005.

Notes

  • Tests done on Correia revealed no significant damage. Manager Clint Hurdle said Correia could possibly start on Monday against Colorado.
  • St. Louis center fielder Skip Schumaker was given the day off after smacking into the wall in the first inning Friday. Matheny said Schumaker was a little banged up but would have been available to pinch hit.
  • The teams wrap up the series on Sunday. Kyle Lohse (2-0, 0.89 ERA) will start for St. Louis while Erik Bedard (0-3, 2.65 ERA) gets the nod for Pittsburgh.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
 
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In his first start as a Pirate, A.J. Burnett holds the Cardinals to three hits in seven innings to collect the win.  (Getty Images)
In his first start as a Pirate, A.J. Burnett holds the Cardinals to three hits in seven innings to collect the win. (Getty Images)

Players of the Game
Pittsburgh

A. Burnett
IP 7.0
H 3
ER 0
BB 2
K 7
Pittsburgh

P. Alvarez
AB 4
R 0
H 2
HR 0
RBI 2
 

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St. Louis Cardinals
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Rafael Furcal, SS2000100 .344
Matt Carpenter, 1B4020012 .314
Matt Holliday, LF3000133 .194
Carlos Beltran, RF4000034 .321
David Freese, 3B3000113 .340
Yadier Molina, C3000103 .292
    Jon Jay, PR0000000 .349
Daniel Descalso, 2B3010010 .209
    Fernando Salas, P0000000 .000
    Marc Rzepczynski, P0000000 .000
   a- Erik Komatsu, PH1000012 .188
Shane Robinson, CF4010003 .350
Jake Westbrook, P2000010 .143
    Tyler Greene, 2B1010000 .222
Totals30050411  
a-struck out for Rzepczynski in the 9th
Batting
SH - Rafael Furcal (1)
Team LOB - 8
Fielding
DP - Furcal-Descalso-M. Carpenter
E - Shane Robinson (1, Dropped fly)
St. Louis Cardinals
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Jake Westbrook (L,2-1) 6.2722260 1.31
Fernando Salas 1000100 4.50
Marc Rzepczynski 0.1000000 2.70
Pitches-Strikes - Jake Westbrook 113-70, Fernando Salas 18-10, Marc Rzepczynski 1-1
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jake Westbrook 10-3
Batters Faced - Jake Westbrook 28, Fernando Salas 4, Marc Rzepczynski 1
Pittsburgh Pirates
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Alex Presley, LF4010010 .273
Jose Tabata, RF3000112 .140
Andrew McCutchen, CF4220000 .377
Neil Walker, 2B3010100 .239
Casey McGehee, 1B4000014 .257
Pedro Alvarez, 3B4022001 .118
Clint Barmes, SS3000003 .095
Rod Barajas, C3010010 .091
A.J. Burnett, P1000110 .000
   a- Nate McLouth, PH1000010 .154
    Juan Cruz, P0000000 .000
    Tony Watson, P0000000 .000
    Jason Grilli, P0000000 .000
    Joel Hanrahan, P0000000 .000
Totals3027236  
a-struck out for Burnett in the 7th
Batting
2B - Andrew McCutchen (3, Westbrook)
RBI - Pedro Alvarez 2 (4)
2-OUT RBI - Pedro Alvarez (2)
SB - Alex Presley (3, 2nd base off Salas/Molina)
CS - Jose Tabata (3, 2nd base by Salas/Molina)
Team LOB - 7
Fielding
DP - Walker-Barmes-McGehee
Pittsburgh Pirates
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
A.J. Burnett (W,1-0) 7300270 0.00
Juan Cruz (H,1) 0.1200000 0.00
Tony Watson (H,2) 0.1000010 1.50
Jason Grilli (H,2) 0.1000010 2.84
Joel Hanrahan (S,2) 1000220 3.60
Pitches-Strikes - A.J. Burnett 76-53, Juan Cruz 11-7, Tony Watson 4-3, Jason Grilli 5-5, Joel Hanrahan 20-9
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - A.J. Burnett 8-5, Juan Cruz 1-0, Joel Hanrahan 1-0
Batters Faced - A.J. Burnett 25, Juan Cruz 3, Tony Watson 1, Jason Grilli 1, Joel Hanrahan 5
Game Information
Attendance - 25218
Game Time - 2:40
Temperature - 45
Umpires - Home - Jim Reynolds, First Base - Mike DiMuro, Second Base - James Hoye, Third Base - Jim Joyce