Cubs nearly no-hit by Burnett in loss to Pirates

Cubs nearly no-hit by Burnett in loss to Pirates

Cubs nearly no-hit by Burnett in loss to Pirates
CHICAGO -- Ryan Dempster joked that if he wasn't traded Tuesday, he would have thrown a no-hitter against the Pirates. Instead, A.J. Burnett nearly did so.

Burnett gave up one hit in his first shutout since June 2006 and Neil Walker provided the offense, hitting a first-inning grand slam and a sacrifice fly in the seventh to power the Pirates to a 5-0 victory Tuesday night over the Cubs.

Pinch-hitter Adrian Cardenas, a rookie infielder called up from Triple-A Iowa earlier Tuesday, broke up Burnett's bid with a clean single to right off a 3-2 pitch with two outs in the eighth. The Cubs have not been no-hit since Sandy Koufax's perfect game on Sept. 9, 1965, in Los Angeles.

Cardenas was the perfect guy to end Burnett's bid. He had faced the Pirates right-hander on May 25 in Pittsburgh and remembered his at-bats.

"I won't forget that game because it's the game I made two errors at third base," Cardenas said. "I remembered him and seeing how he worked throughout the game.

"It's definitely sweet to break up the no-hitter here at our place," Cardenas said. "[A no-hitter] is something you don't want to be a part of."

Cardenas did not get a hit off Burnett in the May game. What was his approach this time?

"I was trying to get a good pitch to hit," he said. "In Triple-A, when I got sent down, I was able to work through the ball as opposed to getting anxious and being rotational. I evened up my stance, so I'm going straight toward the pitcher instead of closing off my stance."

The adjustment helped him feel more confident at the plate.

"I was proud of the at-bat, regardless of the outcome," Cardenas said.

Cubs manager Dale Sveum was pleased, too. The Cubs have not been no-hit for a Major League record 7,441 consecutive games.

"It was a great at-bat by Cardenas to come off the bench and get the count in his favor 3-2 and put a nice swing on the fastball," Sveum said.

Burnett (13-3) already has a no-hitter on his resume, May 12, 2001, against the Padres when he was with the Marlins. On Tuesday, he struck out eight, walked two and hit a batter.

"I think it was a case of Burnett's had a heck of a year, and he nullified the lineup [with his] curveball -- he was backdooring his curveball," Sveum said. "He probably threw 60, 65 curveballs tonight. Even his fastball, he kept it out of the middle of the plate. A couple balls without the wind might have been home runs. He pitched a heck of a game."

The Cubs had enough to deal with after losing two of their starting pitchers in 24 hours when Dempster was dealt to the Rangers on Tuesday and Paul Maholm was traded to the Braves on Monday. Casey Coleman (0-2) was promoted from Triple-A Iowa, his second stint with the big league team, and started in place of Dempster, giving up four runs on seven hits over 4 2/3 innings.

Travis Snider, whom the Pirates acquired from the Blue Jays Monday, singled in his first at-bat with one out in the first. Andrew McCutchen singled and Garrett Jones walked to load the bases for Walker, who hit his second grand slam, and second at Wrigley Field. He also did so on April 1, 2011.

That was all Burnett needed.

"I'm not coming up here to try to take over what [Dempster] was doing," Coleman said. "I'm just trying to help this team win games. It was a long day, waiting for the Deadline to see what happened, but at the same time, I was ready to go. I knew there was a good chance he'd get traded."

Coleman admitted he got away from the game plan after Snider's and McCutchen's two hits, both infield knocks.

"Then I walked a guy and then the one bad pitch [to Walker] summed it up," Coleman said.

The Cubs got a scare in the eighth when second baseman Darwin Barney was hit on the left side of his head with a pitch from Burnett. Barney was taken out of the game and his status was day to day.

"He said he was fine, but he didn't seem like it," Sveum said.

Now that the non-waiver Trade Deadline has passed, the focus will be back to baseball, and not rumors.

"I think it'll be a big relief, but everybody's handled it real well," Sveum said. "Guys have to come up with big plays, big hits and pitch the ball. We're in this boat, and everybody's in it together, and you've got to make the best you can and keep playing as hard as they've been playing and preparing and see where the chips fall."

It's been an emotional 24 hours as the Cubs have said goodbye to popular players Dempster, Maholm, Reed Johnson and Geovany Soto.

"It seemed the same [in the clubhouse], but I wish I would've been able to say bye to Dempster," Cardenas said. "He was one of the best teammates I ever played with. He pitched the game that I made two errors in. I remember he encouraged me after I made a good play after the error, where anybody could have shown me up, especially somebody like him with his years. He never did that. I respected him from Day 1. He's a great person."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.