The Pittsburgh Pirates finally scored some runs for A.J. Burnett in his most recent outing, and their offense seems to have turned the corner since that victory.
St. Louis’ Shelby Miller could be capable of turning it right back around.
Miller looks to build on the best outing of his brief career Wednesday night while Burnett hopes for another offensive boost as he tries to earn his first home win since mid-August.
The Pirates (6-7) didn’t score a run for Burnett (0-2, 3.71 ERA) in his first two starts, but they put up five for him Friday and eventually won 6-5 after the bullpen had let Burnett’s 5-3 lead disappear. Burnett, who gave up three runs in six innings, has struck out 27 in 17 frames but has yet to work into the seventh.
“I need to start working deeper into games,” said Burnett, pulled after 106 pitches. “I’m trying to throw nasty pitches to get strikeouts when I don’t necessarily make nasty pitches and it’s running up my pitch counts.”
Burnett is 0-6 with a 4.07 ERA in seven home starts since last winning Aug. 16. Pittsburgh has failed to score for him in five of those outings.
The Pirates have plated 25 runs and hit .336 in their last four games, and scored four in the first Tuesday before the game was postponed after two innings due to rain.
Staying locked in at the plate won’t be easy in Wednesday’s finale if Miller (2-0, 1.46) looks anything like he did Friday against Milwaukee. The highly touted right-hander held the Brewers to one single without a walk over seven innings, striking out eight in a 2-0 victory.
“Shelby absolutely dominated,” third baseman David Freese told the Cardinals’ official website. “He acted like a veteran to a T. It was fun to watch. Fun to play behind.
“Obviously he expects that out of (himself). We expect that out of him. But to go out there and do it, that’s special.”
This will be Miller’s second road start in the majors after he allowed four hits, four walks and two runs over 5 1-3 in a 6-3 win at San Francisco on April 6.
He’s never faced the Pirates, while Burnett had three very different experiences against St. Louis (8-5) last season. The right-hander pitched seven scoreless innings in one of his home starts, gave up four runs over 5 2-3 in the other and was lit up for a career-high 12 in 2 2-3 innings at Busch Stadium in May.
Carlos Beltran hit a pair of three-run homers off Burnett in that game, but he’s just 5 for 24 in his last seven games and is hitting .180 without an extra-base hit in his last 14 at PNC Park.
Beltran’s lone hit in Monday’s 10-6 win over the Pirates drove in Allen Craig from second base, though, and hitting with runners in scoring position has been the key to the Cardinals having one of the NL’s highest-scoring offense. They’re hitting .395 with runners in scoring position, easily the majors’ best mark.
“We have a lot of hitters who like being in that position with runners in scoring position, and I think that’s where it starts,” Craig said. “I feel like we take our best at-bats when guys are out there, and that’s a good quality have had.”
Pedro Alvarez, Russell Martin and Clint Barmes – Pittsburgh’s Nos. 6-8 hitters Monday and Tuesday – are a combined 3 for 33 with men on second or third, but Starling Marte and Neil Walker are 9 for 21.