The Pittsburgh Pirates evened its series against the St. Louis Cardinals winning a 5-2 game Friday night.
Now the ball gets handed to A.J. Burnett who enters tonight’s start with the lowest home ERA [1.28] among all National League pitchers. Burnett has been a problem to opposing teams as evidenced by his four runs allowed in the past five starts. His next strikeout allows him to pass Mark Langston and take sole possession of 34th place on the all-time list.
In his last start, Burnett had a no-decision allowing one run on five hits against the San Diego Padres. Burnett is 4-2 with a 2.38 ERA in 10 career starts against the Cardinals.
His mound opponent tonight will be John Lackey. Lackey is making his 373rd career start and is looking for both his sixth consecutive quality start and third-straight road victory. Lackey averages 14.5 pitches per inning which ranks third in the NL. Against the Pirates, Lackey is 1-1 with a 3.32 ERA in four career starts.
Lackey has achieved success against NL Central opponents this season posting a 4-0 record with a 2.08 ERA. Lackey’s last start was a win against the Chicago Cubs in which he pitched seven scoreless innings and allowed six hits.
“You’ve got to be stubborn with him because he’s going to be stubborn with you,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “You’ve got to battle with at-bats because he’s going to mix it. He has a four pitch mix. He’s going to change eye level and mix speeds. He’s a smart guy with good stuff.”
Seventh inning stretch: Starling Marte finds himself back in the starting lineup today and back in the familiar cleanup spot in the batting order.
“We gave him rest, he worked hard in the recovery and if you’re going to play him put him back in a spot that says he’s ready to go,” said Hurdle.
Marte has been held out of action since he left in the fourth inning of a game played July 5.
“I’m feeling good, better than I have in the past couple of days,” Marte said. “The treatment helped me a lot so I feel like I’m ready to play. Every day we talked about how I felt, I told him I was ready to play and he said okay.”
Hurdle is not concerned with Marte’s health and has stated in the past that he trusts his player.
“This time of year no one’s at full strength,” said Hurdle. “He’s in a good place though but he might have something to deal with for the rest of the season.”
1. Matt Carpenter 3B
2. Kolten Wong 2B
3. Jhonny Peralta SS
4. Jason Heyward RF
5. Yadier Molina C
6. Mark Reynolds 1B
7. Randal Grichuk LF
8. Tommy Pham CF
9. John Lackey P
1. Gregory Polanco RF
2. Neil Walker 2B
3. Andrew McCutchen CF
4. Starling Marte LF
5. Jung Ho Kang 3B
6. Pedro Alvarez 1B
7. Francisco Cervelli C
8. Jordy Mercer SS
9. A.J. Burnett P
Bottom of the ninth: Hurdle spent pregame today again reflecting on the 12-pitch at-bat between Mark Melancon and Dan Johnson that took place last night.
“That was a very impressive at-bat when he matched up with Johnson,” Hurdle said. “For a pitcher to throw that many strikes in a 3-2 count in that kind of game. There’s a lot of really good pitchers that wouldn’t have been able to do that.”
Rob Scahill continues to recover from right forearm pain. The current plan is to get him throwing again and adding some additional pitches to his last session… Hurdle told assembled media members today that Sean Rodriguez can play any position except pitcher, although the utility man has told his manager to relax and that he would be up for the challenge… The Pirates have won all of their first six home Saturday games thus far in the season… The Pirates are 18-8 in their past 26 contests against the Cardinals at PNC Park… Burnett’s 2.34 ERA during night games is the fourth-best total among NL starters… The Cardinals have recalled pitchers Sam Tuivailala and Nick Greenwood. The corresponding moves were placing Mitch Harris on the 15-day DL with a right groin strain retroactive to July 9 and sending Xavier Scruggs to Triple-A Memphis… Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said the plan is now to pace Matt Holliday and get him ready to face the New York Mets following the All-Star Break. Holliday has a quadriceps tear and was already ruled out for the All-Star Game.
Photo courtesy: Keith Srakocic/AP Photo