GAME 15: Blanked
Newly-acquired Pirates starter A.J. Burnett and Jake Westbrook traded blows for seven tense innings, but Burnett proved to be just a little bit better. Burnett tied up the Cardinal lineup with a masterful return from the disabled list, as the Pirates (6-8) defeated the Cardinals (10-5) with a frustrating 2-0 shutout.
BRAND NEW MAN: Who is this stud pitcher impersonating Jake Westbrook? After three starts, Westbrook (2-1) and his arsenal of off-speed pitches has crafted an ERA of 1.50. That’s statistically impossible, isn’t it? Westbrook pitched 6.2 innings tonight and gave up two runs on seven mostly-late hits while striking out six. If these are the results of Westbrook’s winter dieting, then we need to get Adam Wainwright some celery sticks and carrots pronto.
BURNED: Many people are mistakenly writing off the Pirates, who have a talented-but-young club. Now that they’ve added a serious stopper in Burnett, they could give us fits this summer. Burnett was brilliant in his return from the disabled list, giving up just three hits in seven shutout innings. Scary if indicative of his year.
VACATION: Matheny needs to give Matt Holliday a day off as soon as Jon Jay returns from the DL. Another o-fer performance with three strikeouts tonight (see below) just confirms that Holliday is way off and needs a mental break. It’s hard to watch him struggle so badly.
BIG CHANCE: The Cardinals had their best scoring chance in the eighth. Sugar Shane Robinson and Tyler Greene opened the inning with consecutive singles. Rafael Furcal bunted them both into scoring position. Then, Matt Carpenter struck out, leaving the sole hope with a severely-struggling Holliday. The Pirates brought in Jason Grilli to face Holliday. A tense moment, especially as Holliday quickly found himself down 0-2. Then, the final strike came for Holliday’s third strikeout, ending the inning with profound disappointment.
BACKWARDS: What has happened to Fernando Salas this year? He is getting rocked whenever he steps onto the mound, which is far too often for my tastes. So far, he’s pitched 5.2 innings and surrendered 10 hits and one home run. That’s a fairly ugly 4.50 ERA. The Pirates smacked him around hard in his one inning tonight, although they just hit them directly at defenders. We really need Salas to lock down the opposition better than that.
BIG CHANCE PART 2: Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan had some serious control issues in the ninth, walking David Freese and Yadier Molina with one out. Matheny went with Erik Komatsu as a pinch hitter, and he struck out on a full count. That brought up Sugar Shane Robinson with two outs. Unfortunately, Robinson ended the game by swinging at the first pitch (I mean, really, Sugar Shane???) and grounding out. It was a nasty wet fart of an ending.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Westbrook pitched his heart out. It’s a shame he didn’t have any support.
CONCLUSION: You didn’t really think the Cardinals would score 10 runs every night, did you? Sometimes a hot pitcher shuts down even the best offense, and that pitcher was definitely Burnett tonight. Right now the Cardinals are just too hurt to really put a consistent offense together. Let’s get our regular lineup against Burnett and see how good he is then.