Burnett shows fans what they missed after year away
Right-hander strikes out eight over 6 2/3 innings in loss to Detroit
By Adam Berry
PITTSBURGH -- A.J. Burnett spent a year away from the Pirates, pitching last season for the Phillies, but he looked a lot like his old self Tuesday night in his return to PNC Park.
Burnett has been welcomed back with open arms at almost every turn this week. The crowd offered one of its loudest cheers for Burnett during Monday's pregame player introductions. They stood and cheered when he walked off the mound Tuesday night.
The response wasn't lost on Burnett, who signed a one-year deal to come back to Pittsburgh this offseason.
"From when I got here, walking through the concourse and all the people that work here saying hi, walking back, the crowd -- it's humbling," Burnett said. "It's definitely humbling."
While the crowd celebrated him for his return, Burnett's performance Tuesday night brought back memories of his work with the Bucs from 2012-13. The 38-year-old right-hander gave up only one run on seven hits while striking out eight over 6 2/3 innings.
However, Burnett's effort went unrewarded as he was outdueled by Tigers righty Shane Greene in Pittsburgh's 2-0 loss to Detroit.
Burnett sailed through six innings before running into trouble in the seventh. He issued his only two walks of the night with one out, struck out Greene on a foul bunt then fell behind Tigers center fielder Rajai Davis.
Davis smacked a single up the middle, driving in Alex Avila, one of the batters Burnett walked earlier in the inning. That was all the run support Greene needed.
"I felt strong. The delivery got out of whack in the seventh a little bit. Free passes, they say they hurt you, and they do when they score," Burnett said. "Up until those walks, I held it together pretty good."
Burnett pitched out of a jam in the fourth inning, stranding two runners in scoring position by striking out Tigers third baseman Nick Castellanos with a curveball. Burnett responded with a big fist pump on his way off the mound.
"We take pride in keeping them from touching home plate," Burnett said. "Any time you get a guy in scoring position and you shut 'em down, it's a boost."
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was pleased with what he saw out of Burnett on Tuesday night, particularly against such a dangerous Tigers lineup.
"He was able to make his pitches, get his fastball in locations he wanted to," Hurdle said. "His breaking ball had real good depth and tilt. ... Very efficient. Very strong outing."
Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.