Sunday, April 22, 2012

Game 14: Pirates vs. Cardinals Recap

Pedro Alvarez raised his batting average over .100 by doubling his hit total for the season in one game. And that wasn't even the best news of the night. A.J. Burnett made his debut as a Pittsburgh Pirate out of necessity when Kevin Correia was scratched from the start with discomfort in his left side. Burnett was slated to pitch at least one more rehab start in Indianapolis but the injury accelerated his return to the major leagues. Even with no spring training, the Pirates and their fans finally learned what it's like to have a starting pitcher that can dominate a game.

Burnett did have a bit of rust to shake off but fortunately it only took three batters to do so. He walked two of the first three guys that he faced and allowed a single to Matt Carpenter which loaded the bases with no outs in the first inning. That's when Burnett went to work. He struck out the next two batters he faced and got Yadier Molina to line out sharply to Clint Barmes. Burnett would only allow two more hits and ultimately strike out seven batters in his seven scoreless innings of work. And he only threw 76 pitches.

The offense was once again lackluster against Cardinals' starter Jake Westbrook but the offense that they did receive came from an unlikely source. In the fourth inning, Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker hit back to back singles to put runners at the corners. Alvarez did something that you will rarely ever see him do and that was hit an infield single to score McCutchen.

Alvarez struck again in the sixth inning. McCutchen hit a one out double and Walker was issued a base on balls. Casey McGehee grounded into a fielder's choice to advance McCutchen to third with Alvarez at the plate once again. Alvarez singled to bring home McCutchen for the game's second and final run.

The offense was nothing fantastic but there were two bright spots to take from this game. Burnett came back after breaking his orbital bone and shut down the best team in the NL Central. Alvarez not only didn't strike out in the game, but he collected some hits and drove in some runs which is why he is here. You don't want to jump to conclusions after one game, but if those two guys can be that effective all season, it could be a very special year.

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