CHICAGO -- A.J. Burnett is not about to climb off the magic carpet carrying him to the end of his line.
Continuing to sparkle in what he has said would be his final season, Burnett went the first seven innings Sunday as the Pirates avoided a sweep by the Cubs with a 3-0 victory at Wrigley Field. The loss snapped the Cubs' six-game winning streak, their longest since 2011.
In becoming the first Pirates pitcher in at least 115 years -- records go back only to 1900 -- to not allow more than two runs in any of his first eight starts, Burnett blanked the Cubs through seven on three hits.
"Things are going good, plays are being made, guys are playing hard," Burnett said of the finest extended stretch of his 17-season career. "It's a funny game, because you can also go out there, make your pitch, and not get the results you want."
Right-hander Jake Arrieta kept pace with Burnett, but for Francisco Cervelli's RBI single in the fifth. Arrieta allowed five hits and that one run in his seven, with one walk and seven strikeouts, but still took his first loss in five career decisions against the Bucs. Pittsburgh padded its lead with RBI doubles in the eighth off Zac Grosscup by Neil Walker and Starling Marte.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Harrison runs Pirates into run: It didn't seem like much -- just a little blooper into no-man's-land beyond shortstop. But Josh Harrison turned that fifth-inning flare into a double and the Pirates' first run, on Cervelli's ensuing single. More >
Out in the field: Center fielder Andrew McCutchen helped Burnett limit the Cubs to three hits by preventing a possible double in the seventh. Jorge Soler smacked a liner to center field that McCutchen raced after and hauled in near the warning track. McCutchen caught another line drive with two on that ended the eighth.
"McCutchen was extremely good today in center field," said Arrieta, who fell to 4-1 with a 2.43 ERA all-time against the Pirates. "He made at least two really tough catches."
"How can I possibly be upset right now? It's impossible. We played well again. They pitched well. They beat us on the mound. Jake was outstanding. If we had this kind of a homestand for the rest of the season, I'd be very pleased. There's nothing to be upset about," -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon, whose team went 6-1 on the homestand
"In the seventh, it was pretty much, 'Here. Hit it.' I didn't have a lot left." -- Burnett, on getting away with a seven-pitch seventh on two lineouts and a deep fly
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Seven strikeouts increased Burnett's career total to 2,413. He is three shy of matching Luis Tiant for 39th place on the all-time list.
The Pirates' successful challenge of Starlin Castro's sixth-inning steal of second base removed the Cubs' potential tying run from scoring position. Castro appeared to safely beat catcher Cervelli's throw to shortstop Jung Ho Kang -- who kept the tag on Castro as he went on to straddle the bag. After the call was overturned, Montero fanned to end the inning with the Pirates still up, 1-0.
"That's the play getting more reviews now," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "That slide … 'cause he beats the throw. But fielders have to stay [with the tag] to see what happens. Lot of guys come off the base one way or another; Kang stayed with the tag, there was a window there when neither foot was on the base, and we got an out."
BRYANT DEPARTS EARLY Jonathan Herrera replaced Kris Bryant at third base for the Cubs to start the fifth inning. Bryant left because he was "under the weather" and was dehydrated, the Cubs announced. Bryant singled in his first at-bat and struck out swinging in his second at-bat. More >
WHAT'S NEXT Pirates: Following Monday's off-day, the Bucs open up PNC Park for an eight-game homestand with the first of two against the Twins. Francisco Liriano will face his former team in the 7:05 p.m. ET opener. Even after dropping two-of-three to Detroit earlier this season, the Pirates are 15-8 in Interleague Play at home since the start of the 2013 season.
Cubs: After an off-day on Monday, the Cubs open a three-game road series against the Padres on Tuesday at 9:10 p.m. CT with Jason Hammel on the mound. The Padres took two of three against Chicago in mid-April.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer and on his podcast. Sarah Trotto is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.