PITTSBURGH -- Saturday's game at PNC Park was billed as a pitchers' duel, a showdown between Mets ace Matt Harvey and veteran A.J. Burnett. But the Pirates quickly turned it into the worst start of Harvey's young career, running away with an 8-2 win over the Mets.
"He's like a big kid in the backyard out there that's having some fun and just being very, very aggressive and very, very purposeful on the mound," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
Burnett was plagued by a lack of run support in his first five starts this year, but that was not the case Saturday. Andrew McCutchen homered in the first and Pedro Alvarez went deep in the second, and the Pirates rallied for four more runs off Harvey in the fourth.
"You look forward to going up against those guys. It's fun to watch, fun to compete against them," Burnett said of Harvey. "You tip your hat to the offense coming out and swinging the bat and getting [him] out of there early. It's such a boost for us, seeing them come out and just jump on him like that. It was fun to watch."
Pittsburgh jumped all over Harvey, tagging him for seven runs in four innings. Harvey had never given up that many runs or exited as early in any of his previous 44 starts in the Majors.
"Everything was kind of all over the place," Harvey said. "I wasn't locating, obviously. My arm feels fine. My body feels fine. It was just one of those days that if I tried to spin it, it was over the middle. If I tried to throw a fastball in, it was away, and vice versa. Pretty terrible outing."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Harrison sets tone, table: Knowing that hittable pitches might be few and far between against Harvey, the Pirates understood they'd have to be aggressive early in the count. Josh Harrison immediately provided an example, lining a leadoff single to left on the first pitch of the game. McCutchen followed suit, launching a 2-0 fastball into the bullpen in left-center for a two-run shot in the first. So did Alvarez, sending a first-pitch fastball from Harvey into the right-field seats in the second inning.
"Any time you can get that leadoff guy on, it makes a difference," Harrison said. "Right away from the first batter, he's going from the windup to the stretch. Typically, that's what you want to do with starters." More >
Harvey dented: The worst start of Harvey's career lasted four innings, resulting in seven Pirates runs on a half-dozen hits. Harvey also walked two batters and threw two wild pitches, all of those control issues unfolding during Pittsburgh's four-run fourth. Prior to Saturday's loss, Harvey had never given up more than five runs in a game. More >
Burnett helps his own cause: The Pirates' knockout blow came in the fourth inning, when they sent eight men to the plate against Harvey. After loading the bases with back-to-back walks, Burnett lofted a sacrifice fly to center to keep the rally going. In nine starts this season, Burnett has driven in two runs -- matching his output over 29 games in both 2012 and '13.
"Any time you get a bat on that guy, yeah, just luck," Burnett said. "He hit my bat, so I'll take it."
"We just had the at-bats we needed to have to beat an ace, to beat a really good pitcher." -- Hurdle
"Surprised? No. This is what we're capable of. We haven't shown it all season. But I mean, surprised? No." -- Harrison
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McCutchen's first-inning homer was his 62nd at home, breaking a tie with former Pirates (and Mets) outfielder Jason Bay for the all-time home run lead at PNC Park.
Burnett struck out Mets catcher Kevin Plawecki to begin the third inning, passing Luis Tiant on the all-time strikeouts list. Burnett now ranks 39th on the list, with 2,423 career strikeouts.
Burnett's performance followed a 10-strikeout effort from Gerrit Cole on Friday night. The last time Pirates starters struck out at least 10 batters in back-to-back games was May 23-24, 1984.
With one out in the sixth inning, the Pirates challenged the ruling on the field that Mets first baseman Lucas Duda was not hit by a pitch after a swinging third strike, during which Curtis Granderson advanced to second base. The call was overturned when replays showed the ball did strike Duda after his swinging third strike, which means it is a dead ball, and Granderson was sent back to first base. The review lasted one minute, 22 seconds, and the Pirates retained their challenge.
In the eighth inning, Ruben Tejada went deep into the first row of the left-field stands off Pirates reliever Antonio Bastardo. Crew chief Mike Winters initiated a 30-second review to determine whether a fan interfered on the play, but the call was upheld.
WHAT'S NEXT Mets: Seeking to salvage something from their holiday weekend, the Mets will attempt to avoid a sweep when left-hander Jon Niese takes the mound in a 1:35 p.m. ET game at PNC Park. Niese is coming off two poor outings of his own, giving up a combined 12 earned runs in 11 1/3 innings.
Pirates: Left-hander Francisco Liriano will start for the Pirates on Sunday afternoon at PNC Park as the Bucs look to complete a three-game sweep of the Mets. Liriano is coming off his worst start of the season, allowing seven runs in only two innings against the Twins on Tuesday.