Pirates-Indians Preview

A.J. Burnett’s late-career renaissance in Pittsburgh hasn’t been

completely surprising considering he’s taken full advantage of

moving into pitcher-friendly PNC Park.

His trips outside the Steel City haven’t gone quite so well.

Burnett looks to win a sixth straight start Saturday in

Cleveland, where the Indians will try to take advantage of his

major league-worst road ERA and hand the Pirates a fifth

consecutive loss.

Burnett (6-2, 3.61 ERA) has benefited from moving back to the

NL, and he’s been downright dominant in Pittsburgh. His 1.27 home

ERA is the majors’ fourth-best, and he improved to 4-0 at PNC by

holding Kansas City to two runs over 7 1-3 innings of Sunday’s 3-2

win.

“You want to go out and go as deep as you can every time out,”

Burnett told the Pirates’ official website. “It just worked that

way.”

Pittsburgh (32-31) has won Burnett’s last seven outings – he’s

5-0 with a 2.12 ERA – but only two of those have come on the road.

He’s 2-2 away from PNC with an 8.69 ERA, the worst mark among the

137 major league pitchers to have made at least four road

starts.

He can become the first Pirates pitcher to win six straight

starts overall since Doug Drabek did it during his 1990 Cy Young

Award-winning season, but Progressive Field has never been kind to

Burnett. He’s 1-5 in six visits with a 6.75 ERA, his highest in any

park where he’s made more than five starts.

The Indians (33-30), though, haven’t recently looked capable of

adding to Burnett’s shaky road numbers. Cleveland has totaled 15

runs and is batting .103 (4 for 39) with runners in scoring

position over its last six games, but found enough offense to beat

the Pirates 2-0 in Friday’s series opener.

The Indians managed one hit in seven chances with runners in

scoring position, but it was a significant one. Michael Brantley

drove in Shin-Soo Choo with an eighth-inning single to extend his

hitting streak to a major league season-high 22 games.

“What streak?” joked Brantley, who’s 1 for 7 lifetime versus

Burnett.

Cleveland’s offense isn’t the only one having trouble scoring

lately. The Pirates are 5 for 34 with runners in scoring position

during their losing streak and have now been held to either one run

or none 19 times on the season.

“We need to have a better understanding and awareness when we’re

in the (batter’s) box,” manager Clint Hurdle said.

Hurdle’s very aware of what Cleveland’s next starter is capable

of doing. He managed Ubaldo Jimenez from 2006-2009 in Colorado, and

the right-hander was 3-0 with a 1.54 ERA in his first five career

starts versus Pittsburgh before giving up four runs over four

innings in a May 2011 loss.

Consistency has been the issue for Jimenez (6-4, 4.91) since

arriving in Cleveland, but he’s shown signs of turning around his

rocky start. He held Detroit to one run over 6 2-3 innings in a 4-2

win June 5, then struck out seven without a walk before exiting

after seven innings Sunday in St. Louis, allowing one run in a game

the Indians eventually won 4-1.

“He was dominant,” manager Manny Acta told the Indians’ official

website. “He had the good fastball with life and a little tail to

it at the end, and had a good slider. Everything was working for

him.”

Jimenez is 3-1 with a 3.38 ERA in five starts at home, where

he’s issued as many walks (19) as hits in 32 innings. The Pirates,

however, have walked just 143 times – 17 fewer than the majors’

next-lowest total.