A 12 inning 6-4 victory for the Pittsburgh Pirates that a win today or a Chicago Cubs loss, would secure home field advantage for the NL Wild Card Game.
With manager Clint Hurdle’s announcement that Gerrit Cole will get the Pirates and the Cubs equally slam dunk decision in starting Jake Arrieta for Wednesday’s game, the location is one of the few things left to determine.
A.J. Burnett hopes to be able to solve the puzzle with his 10th win of the season when he faces Brandon Finnegan.
Tonight is Burnett’s 430th and final regular season start of his career. Since he debut, Burnett is second in strikeouts [2,504], fourth in starts  and innings pitched [2724.2] and 10th in wins . He needs three strikeouts to tie Hall-of-Famer Christy Mathewson for 31st in Major League history. He has posted a 2.40 ERA in 12 starts at PNC Park this season.
Burnett is 8-7 with a 3.90 ERA in 20 career starts against the Reds. He lost his lost start allowing two runs on seven hits in six innings to the Chicago Cubs.
Finnegan was acquired by the Reds in the trade which sent Johnny Cueto to the Kansas City Royals. Finnegan was selected 17th overall in the 2014 MLB Draft and made his Major League debut on Sept. 6 of that year. He became the first player to participate in the MLB World Series and College World Series in the same year.
This is his fourth major league start of the season and 27th career appearance. The lone batter he has faced was Aramis Ramirez and got him to strikeout in the lone plate appearance which featured both. Finnegan lost his last start against the Washington Nationals allowing three runs on eight hits in five innings.
An ode to A.J. Burnett: Much if not all of the pregame game chatter in the Pirates clubhouse was Burnett who is making his final regular season start and quite possibly his final career start unless the team wins its wild card game.
Pirates fans have created social media engagement on the topic with the hashtag #BatOutPNC.
On a milestone such as the one Burnett has in this game it is only natural to flock to the so-called “Robin” of the pitching staff to talk about “Batman”.
“He’s accomplished a lot and has earned everything he’s got in this game,” Locke said. “I think everybody will be very wide eyed watching him pitch tonight.”
This by no means is a token achievement for Burnett. He has captivated the city who wave Batman flag or even flash signals. He has been a fan favorite
“He’s made me a better manager,” said Hurdle. “It’s the first time I’ve had an ace in the rotation and it’s grown from there. It’s a different mindset, he’s done some things.”
Those things are both on and off the field which have allowed the Pirates to find success.
“A.J has laid the ground work for that and never likes to lose,” Locke said. “He really helped change the mentality of this team.”
Burnett has consistently insisted that this season is his final curtain call. Both of his sons are growing up before his eyes and he wants to be there for them.
That’s not to say he was not persuaded by others to change his mind.
“I lobbied him in 2013 and he went to a different team, so I’m not trying anymore,” said Locke.
At the end of the day, Hurdle believes Burnett’s legacy will be driven by his results and passion on the field.
“We needed the edge off the mound more than anything, that’s where he made the biggest difference,” Hurdle said.
Bottom of the ninth: The Pirates have won 11 of 12 Saturday home games and have averaged 5.5 runs in those contests… Starling Marte is one home run shy of becoming the ninth player in team history to collect at least 20 steals and home runs in the same season… The Pirates need a 13,511 fans to attend tonight’s game in order to set a single-season attendance record… Francisco Cervelli’s 122 starts are the most by a Pirates catcher since 2004 when Jason Kendall made 145… A Reds loss tonight would be their 14th in a row which would be the first time such a streak has happened since the last 14 games of the 1937 season.
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