Burnett making strong case to be an All-Star

Burnett making strong case to be an All-Star

DETROIT -- A.J. Burnett is not running. But If elected, he will serve with bursting pride on the 2015 National League All-Star Team.

That much was clear after Burnett threw a few more dozen unhittable two-seam fastballs into the ring during the Bucs' 9-3 win over Detroit on Wednesday night.

"I'm curious," Burnett said of the upcoming announcement of All-Star manager Bruce Bochy's pitching staff. "But it's not gonna change the way I go about anything. I've got a side session in two days, then another start. That's all I'm worried about."

Let the San Diego Padres, Burnett's next target, worry.

Continuing his wonderfully consistent and impressive season, Burnett again went seven innings -- he's gone at least that long in half of his 16 starts -- and, even by his own humble admission, was a handful.

"I was able to hit that down-and-away two-seamer at will. It was a good pitch tonight," Burnett said.

Wednesday night's performance was vintage Burnett -- on his end, not on the Pirates'. He allowed two runs on seven hits, none of which left the yard. He didn't issue a walk and struck out four, giving him a career total of 2,460 (one behind No. 35 all-timer Jim Kaat).

His supporting cast, however, outdid itself with 21 hits and nine runs. It must have felt weird to Burnett, who has an ERA of 1.85 in the seven starts he did not win.

"I program myself that it's 0-0 no matter what," Burnett said. "I didn't change anything. Just try to get strike one, and get back in the dugout."

He did that often enough to leave his manager shaking his head.

"Twenty-four out of 29 [batters], first-pitch strikes," manager Clint Hurdle said. "It was strike one all night long. He navigated through a very tough lineup. Very, very acute focus with his pitches. A really, really strong performance from him."

Burnett has gone five straight starts without allowing a homer, and has given up only one in his last 10 starts, covering 67 1/3 innings. Such startling numbers could be the best example yet of the "toned-down" approach Burnett credits for this latter-career success.

"It's commanding that two-seamer. When it's thigh-high, it gets hit. Knee-high, you get to see these guys run around the infield," said Burnett, referring to his infield defense. "With the good sinker, I try to get them to beat it into the ground and let the guys work. That's the key, keeping the ball in the yard. You have a better chance of doing that when it's on the ground."

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. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.