Over the course of a 162-game season, every team is guaranteed a handful of games in which they face one of the top pitchers in the game and they’re usually automatic losses. To A.J. Burnett‘s credit, he out-pitched Felix Hernandez, but made one mistake too many and couldn’t make the King STFD.
The Bucs didn’t waste any time getting to Hernandez in the first. Starling Marte doubled on the second pitch that he saw, and two batters later, Cutch singled up the middle to bring him home.
A.J. was perfect through three innings against the weak Seattle lineup, which featured former Bucco-great Jason Bay. Burnett got ahead of the leadoff man in the fourth 1-2, but threw three straight balls and allowed his first baserunner of the game. J-Bat then drew a walk, but A.J. got a strikeout to calm things down. After a groundout moved both runners up a base, Burnett threw his second wild pitch of the inning and allowed the tying-run to score.
The Mariners’ first hit came with one out in the fifth when Endy Chavez reached on a cheap infield single, and then advanced to second base on a throwing error. After five innings, A.J. had allowed just one hit and struck out eight batters. In the bottom of the inning, Jordy Mercer made up for his error with a leadoff double, which was followed by one of the most atrocious series of baseball plays you’ll ever see. Clint Barmes, which the pitcher on deck, came to the plate intending to bunt. Whether this call came from the dugout or Barmes decided to do it himself doesn’t matter, it’s a stupid play. He took the first two pitches before fouling off a bunt attempt, falling behind 1-2. He eventually worked the count back full and flew out to RF, allowing Mercer to tag up and get to third. The result was essentially a sacrifice bunt, but wasn’t it worth it to at least let Clint swing the bat and MAYBE come up with a knock that scored a run? A.J. then came up and HE tried to bunt, but failed to do so and struck out attempting. Marte then struck out swinging on a ball in the dirt to end the inning and waste the leadoff double. So frustrating.
Burnett’s only real mistake was trying to sneak a first-pitch fastball in against Jesus Montero in the seventh, which ended up in the right-center stands for a go-ahead home run that made it 2-1. On any other day, seven innings with nine strikeouts and two runs on two hits would be almost a guaranteed win for Burnett, but Felix lasted eight innings and allowed just the one run to best A.J. The Pirates had two chances late in the game to make a comeback, beginning with Marte’s two-out single in the eighth. Everyone had to know that he was going to run, it was just a matter of when. On the second pitch to Travis Snider, Marte broke for second, but stumbled and got hung up between bases. He then decided to do a complete 180 and go back to first, before eventually getting in a rundown and getting tagged out. Jeff Sullivan, Mariners-fanatic and writer, offered up this explanation of the pickoff/caught-stealing. In the ninth against Tom Wilhelmsen, Garrett Jones singled with two outs, but Michael McKenry skied a high flyball to LF that ended the game and gave the Mariners the win to split the series.
Off to NYC for four games against the Metropolitans.
Pirates (18-15) – Mariners (16-19)
Win: Hernandez (5-2)
Loss: Burnett (3-3)
Save: Wilhelmsen (9)