Burnett wins sixth straight behind four homers

Burnett wins sixth straight behind four homers

Burnett wins sixth straight behind four homers
CLEVELAND -- A. J. Burnett has been talking a pretty good game ever since he joined the Pirates. Evidently, he can still pitch one, too.

The veteran right-hander, who has received so much credit for preaching and leading the club into a new mindset, put his mound where his mouth is on Saturday, pitching an end to the Bucs' four-game losing streak with a 9-2 victory over the Indians before 30,408 at Progressive Field.

"It's fun to take the mound for a bunch of guys like this," Burnett said. "They come out and play hard every day."

It was a lot more fun on Saturday, when the Pirates hit as well as played hard. They started their four-homer game against Ubaldo Jimenez and enjoyed an add-on afternoon against the Indians bullpen.

"We made Jimenez work a little bit," said Clint Hurdle, Jimenez's original manager with the Rockies in 2007. "Then we were able to pile on late, to make it more comfortable for everybody."

  • 142 wins
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While ending one streak, Burnett extended another: his own for winning consecutive starts. The streak reached six, making him the first Pittsburgh pitcher to do that since Doug Drabek in 1990 on his way to the National League Cy Young Award.

Burnett ran off six straight victorious starts in 2008, when he pitched for Toronto -- and catcher Rod Barajas.

Following Saturday's game, Burnett and Barajas shared a little postgame meal in the Pirates clubhouse, and you can guess what the table-talk was all about.

"I told him that I don't know what it is, but seeing him back there just makes me confident that I can make this pitch and get out of [trouble]," said Burnett, who had dealt with considerable trouble while allowing six hits and issuing four walks in 6 2/3 innings. "I tell him every day how much fun it is to be back with him."

For all their opportunities, the Indians could only score twice, on a pair of solo homers.

Burnett's two chief cohorts as the Pirates (33-31) stayed above .500 were Pedro Alvarez, who homered twice, and Casey McGehee, who also homered in his four-RBI day. Alex Presley contributed a solo shot to Pittsburgh's second four-homer game of the season -- the first on June 3 in Milwaukee.

"They bombed us away, basically. They killed us with the long ball," said Cleveland manager Manny Acta. "Burnett just attacked the strike zone and had an easy day of work. He didn't even run his pitch count up. He got us the whole day. We couldn't do much."

The heart of Pittsburgh's lineup hit as it seldom has in the first 10 weeks of the season. No. 3 through No. 6 -- Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones, McGehee and Alvarez -- combined to go 8-for-16, with three homers and eight RBIs.

Most consistent of those lately has been McGehee, who is hitting .370 (11-for-28) with three homers and eight RBIs in his last eight starts.

"It's a bit of a tough situation to come to a new organization, where you want to make an impact right away. It's easy to put too much pressure on yourself," said McGehee, who entered June hitting .186, without a home run and six RBIs. "I've been able to take a step back and relax, and play my game more. Being able to relax is the key to getting going and giving yourself a better chance of doing what you intend to do."

The shouts of "Let's go Bucs!" were prevalent even while the Indians were mounting an attempted rally in the seventh, which eventually did signal the end of Burnett's outing.

When Burnett handed the ball over to Hurdle with two outs and strolled off the mound, making room for Jared Hughes, the appreciative cheers of Pittsburgh fans was likewise dominant.

Again, Burnett was at his shutdown best. One way he has gained his new teammates' devotion is through his consistent response to their production. He isn't disposed to giving back hard-earned runs.

Alvarez got the Pirates even at 1-1 with a towering homer in the top of the second, neutralizing Asdrubal Cabrera's first-inning blow. Burnett then set down the Indians easily, with a double-play ball erasing a leadoff walk, in the bottom half.

Jones gave Burnett a 2-1 lead with a bloop RBI single in the top of the third. Then the Indians went in order in the bottom half.

McGehee came to the rescue in the top of the sixth, soon after Casey Kotchman had homered the Tribe into a 2-2 tie, with his two-run blow. The bottom half was anything but easy -- the bases were loaded before Shelley Duncan popped up for the third out -- but Burnett again followed up the score with a scoreless inning.

"You always want to put up zeros, and I want to be a stopper, too," Burnett said. "The offense struggled [Friday night, in a 2-0 loss], and these guys come back the very next day and jump on Ubaldo."

Burnett, who allowed two homers in eight different starts in 2011, did so for only the second time this season. It shouldn't come as a surprise that the first instance was during his infamous 12-run outing on May 2 in St. Louis.

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