Cardinals-Pirates Preview

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.