Pirates Top Marlins With Rare 4th Inning, A.J. Dominates
I have been to many Pirates games since I was young but this game had the best atmosphere of any game I have been to by far. For starters, the Pirates got on the board first and even when the Marlins struck back with a homerun, it never felt like the game was out of control. Carlos Zambrano was a mad man on the mound, constantly throw breaking balls around the strike zone but never in it. I honestly felt like I was back working AA ball watching a starter clinging on to the last strings of baseball.
Zambrano’s erratic pitching got him in trouble in the fourth. Eight batters came to the plate before an official AB was recorded. Hit batsmen and an error on John Buck put the Pirates ahead one, more walks and a sac fly added one more before another couple of walks brought in the final two runs. All in all, a weird inning to give the Pirates a stat line of 5 runs on 3 hits. The Pirates lineup struggled, leaving 9 men on base and going 0-12 with men in scoring position.
But it didn’t matter because A.J. Burnett was on fire. Burnett did not have his trademark wild first inning and mowed down Marlins hitters with ease, becoming a ground ball pitcher for the evening. He only recorded three total strikeouts, but he lasted 7 2/3 innings in under 100 pitches before Brad Lincoln came on to earn his first professional save. As Burnett walked off the mound, he received a tremendous ovation (deservedly so) and it was an incredible moment. The last time I remember a Pirate getting that kind of ovation? Freddy Sanchez at the All Star Game in 2006. A.J. is a Pittsburgh favorite and “that player” on the Pirates who’s attitude towards life and the game make him a natural fit in the city. Thanks Yanks.
The Pirates clinch the series and can legitimately grab the sweep on Sunday. Karstens takes the hill for the Bucs, sure to be an adventure. The Pirates look to get their league leading 32nd home win. SIDENOTE: There was a nice presentation pregame with the Stargell family to honor Willie’s commemorative stamp. It was touching to see his children and wife back in Pittsburgh.