A.J. Burnett consistently has struggled with his control, starting with a matchup against the Chicago Cubs in early April.
After a solid start to win his last time out, he’ll seek a better performance against the visiting Cubs this time around while looking to help the Philadelphia Phillies win for the fifth time in six games Sunday.
Burnett (4-5, 4.24 ERA) allowed at least three runs in each start while going 1-4 with a 7.25 ERA over his previous six, but he bounced back to allow two runs and three hits in 7 1-3 innings of Tuesday’s 5-2 win over San Diego.
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The right-hander was better with his control, walking two and throwing a season-low 89 pitches, but he’s issued an NL-high 43 walks.
"It looked like he was throwing more strikes and he had some contact outs early in counts," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "He also mixed in some two-seam fastballs, which worked for him in getting ground-ball outs to left-handed hitters."
Burnett was wild against the Cubs on April 6, walking six and hitting a batter while giving up eight runs – four earned – in 5 2-3 innings of an 8-3 loss. He had a 2.40 ERA in his previous eight starts against Chicago, which saw its major league-worst road record fall to 12-25 with Saturday’s 7-3 loss.
The Phillies (29-37) improved to 4-1 on a six-game homestand, which they entered having dropped eight of nine. Jimmy Rollins’ fifth-inning single gave him 2,235 career hits to surpass Mike Schmidt as the franchise’s all-time leader.
"He’s put together what is potentially a Hall of Fame career," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "He’s a credit to Philadelphia and the Phillies. I think he’s admired all over."
After the on-field celebration, Schmidt gave a quick hitting lesson in the dugout to Domonic Brown, who hit a three-run homer later in the inning. It marked his first in 14 games and fourth of the season after hitting a team-high 27 in 2013.
"I said, ‘Domonic, use your (left hand) and let your top hand get active through the ball,’" Schmidt told the team’s official website. "I don’t know if it actually looked that way when he hit the home run, but it worked."
Justin Ruggiano, Luis Valbuena and Mike Olt homered for the Cubs (27-39), who have dropped five of seven and have the NL’s worst record. Their four runs Saturday matched the total from their previous three games, and their three homers marked the same amount they had over their last six.
Chicago will look to get back on track with help from Travis Wood, who has a 7.23 ERA in his last three outings but won at Pittsburgh on Tuesday. Wood (6-5, 4.95) labored through 6 2-3 innings while giving up three runs and nine hits in a 7-3 victory.
The left-hander didn’t have his best stuff against the Phillies on April 4, either, giving up four runs in 6 1-3 innings of a 7-2 loss. He’s 0-1 in four career starts against Philadelphia despite a 2.60 ERA.
Chase Utley, who homered Saturday, hit a two-run shot off Wood in the last matchup. He’s hitting .392 in his last 22 games against the Cubs.