Only the complete game and shutout eluded Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett in a stadium where he loves to pitch.
Burnett pitched into the ninth inning and Pedro Alvarez and Russell Martin homered to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 6-2 win over the Chicago Cubs on Saturday.
“You program yourself,” Burnett said after coming within two outs of his team’s first complete game this season. “You want to finish what you started.”
Burnett (4-6) gave up four hits and three walks with five strikeouts in 81/3 innings to improve to 5-0 in his career at Wrigley Field. He had a shutout until Alfonso Soriano’s two-run home run to left with one out in the ninth ended a string of 18 straight scoreless innings by Pirates pitchers.
“It was the only ball that hung,” Burnett said of the shot by Soriano. “He did with it what you’re supposed to do with it. I go back a long way with Sori. ... I’ve gotten him a few times, he’s gotten me.
“But you know, you can bury that pitch right there and I’ve buried it.”
Burnett held the Cubs hitless until Nate Schierholtz’s double down the line in right leading off the fifth. He threw 112 pitches and left after Soriano’s home run.
Tigers 6, Indians 4
The Detroit Tigers have built a bit of a cushion in the division, taking advantage of their powerful lineup, steady rotation and Cleveland’s slump.
Prince Fielder hit a bases-clearing double in the second inning and the Tigers held on to beat the Indians.
AL Central-leading Detroit has won the first two games of the series — and three straight overall — to build a season-high 41/2-game lead over the Indians, less than three weeks after trailing them by 21/2 games.
“It’s good to be in first place, but we have to stay focused and keep winning games so we can finish in September,” Miguel Cabrera said.
The Indians fell a game under .500, losing a season-high six straight and 12 of their last 15 games.
“There’s a lot of us not feeling good right now,” said Nick Swisher, who is hitless in his last 24 at-bats.
Rick Porcello (3-3) gave up two runs — one earned — and three hits while striking out seven over six innings.
Ryan Raburn hit a two-run homer off reliever Luke Putkonen to pull the Indians within two runs in the seventh inning and they had a shot to at least get even in the ninth.
After Phil Coke pitched 1 1-3 innings of scoreless relief, Jose Valverde pitched a shaky ninth for his eighth save in 10 opportunities.
Carlos Santana hit a one-out single in the ninth, a flare to right that second baseman Omar Infante almost caught with his back to the plate. Yan Gomes walked to put Raburn — the potential the go-ahead run — at the plate and Valverde struck out his former teammate and Mike Aviles to end the game.
“He pitched his way out of it,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “He made some quality pitches. Two strikeouts to end it, that’s pretty good.”