Indians fall to Pirates, Brantley’s streak ends
CLEVELAND (AP) — A.J. Burnett was more concerned about stopping a team streak than extending his own run.
He did both as the Pittsburgh Pirates hit four homers to beat the Cleveland Indians 9-2 Saturday.
Burnett became the first Pittsburgh pitcher since 1990 to win six straight starts, Pedro Alvarez homered twice and Casey McGehee also went deep and drove in four runs as the Pirates broke a four-game losing streak.
“I wanted to stop the bleeding, but this one is not about me,” said Burnett, who extended the best stretch by a Pirates pitcher since Doug Drabek won six in a row during his NL Cy Young Award-winning season.
“The offense did the job today. The defense, too. I left a lot of guys on base. Guys made plays behind me.”
The last Pirates pitcher to win six straight decisions was rookie Zach Duke in 2005. He did it over eight starts to open his career 6-0.
Burnett had not done well at Progressive Field until handing the Indians their fourth loss in five games. He came in 1-5 with a 6.75 ERA in six previous starts in Cleveland.
“He had an easy day of work,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “We didn’t even run his pitch count up. He got us the whole day. We couldn’t do much.”
Cleveland’s Michael Brantley went 0 for 3 with a walk, halting the majors’ longest hitting streak this season at 22 games.
After being shut out for the sixth time on Friday night, the Pirates broke loose for 12 hits and most runs since a 10-4 win over the Chicago Cubs on May 27.
“It’s not about the homers, but about having better at-bats,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “It is what is going on underneath the helmet than the swings.”
Hurdle liked how McGehee bounced back from being called out on strikes in the first inning and grounding into a double play against Ubaldo Jimenez (6-5) in the third.
“Casey was in a rough place early,” Hurdle said. “Those things can send you the wrong way. Then he got a hanging breaking ball and banged it into the left-field bleachers.”
The two-run shot in the sixth made it 4-2.
Alvarez’z first homer tied it at 1 in the second. He added a two-run shot in the ninth off Nick Hagadone. That came after McGehee’s two-out, two-run blooper to right made it 7-2.
Burnett walked four and gave up six hits, including homers to Asdrubal Cabrera in the first and Casey Kotchman in the fifth. He worked out of two jams.
After Cabrera’s homer made it 1-0, Cleveland put two runners on. Johnny Damon then hit a blooper to short right field, but second baseman Neil Walker made a tumbling, over-the-shoulder catch for the third out.
In the sixth, Cleveland loaded the bases on singles by Cabrera and Jason Kipnis along with Damon’s two-out walk. Burnett got Shelley Duncan to pop out to end that threat.
“That was a huge inning for us,” Acta said. “We had an opportunity to get back into the game and maybe take the lead.”
The Pirates got a run on three straight one-out singles off Jimenez in the third. Garrett Jones’ run-scoring hit made it 2-1 before Jimenez got McGehee to ground into an inning-ending double play.
Three innings later, McGehee hit his third homer — all in his last eight starts. He is hitting .440 (11 of 25) the last two weeks against right-handers.
“When you come to a new team, you want to make an impact,” said McGehee, who struggled early this year after being acquired from Milwaukee in December. “I took a step back and tried to relax, put up better at bats. I just feel more comfortable.”
Alex Presley made it 5-2 in the seventh with his fourth homer, off reliever Tony Sipp. It was the fifth homer allowed by Sipp in his last 22 innings.
Jimenez gave up seven hits and four runs over six innings. The right-hander had allowed only two earned runs in two previous starts this month after struggling in May, when he had a 6.75 ERA six starts.
NOTES: Indians DH Travis Hafner, who had right knee surgery May 24, is hitting off a tee and said he hopes to start a rehab assignment “in two weeks.” … Pirates RHP Jeff Karstens, out since April 18 with right shoulder inflammation, is scheduled to begin a rehab Tuesday at Double-A Altoona. … Damon’s walk was the 1,000th of his career. He is 114th all-time.