SAN DIEGO —
Until last night, the only time A.J. Burnett had beaten the San Diego Padres was on May 12, 2001, when he threw a no-hitter against them while with the Marlins.
“Was that the only time? There you go. You walk nine, you beat them every time,” Burnett joked last night.
Twelve years after that erratic gem, Burnett pitched seven strong innings against the Padres and the Pittsburgh Pirates had six extra-base hits, including Neil Walker’s home run, to beat San Diego 8-1.
“I had guys diving left and right behind me today and they were swinging the bat,” said Burnett, who is now 2-5 against San Diego. “It’s just fun to see everybody in this room contribute to what’s going on right now. I’m glad I was part of it tonight.”
Burnett (6-8) held San Diego to one run and four hits, struck out seven and walked one. He bounced back from two starts in which he allowed 10 earned runs and 16 hits in 10 innings.
The Pirates opened a two-game lead in the NL Central over St. Louis, which lost 6-3 at Milwaukee.
The Padres loaded the bases with two outs in the third before Burnett struck out Yonder Alonso.
“His sixth inning was as good as any he had all night, pitching to the middle of the lineup,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “So we decided when he came in 3-1, he was going back out. He had pitches to work with. He was able to reboot tonight. He used all his pitches. Very good outing for him.”
Burnett was backed by some nice defense. Left fielder Jose Tabata made a diving catch of Alexi Amarista’s sinking liner in the first. Third baseman Pedro Alvarez made a diving stop of Nick Hundley’s grounder in the second and Walker, the second baseman, made a diving stop of Jaff Decker’s grounder in the third.
Walker homered into the sandy play area beyond the fence in right-center on a 3-1 pitch from Tyson Ross with one out in the first. It was his eighth. Alvarez reached on second baseman Jedd Gyorko’s throwing error and Russell Martin followed with an RBI double to right.
Alvarez tripled in the third to bring in Walker, who was hit by a pitch leading off the inning.
Andrew McCutchen hit a two-run triple in the seventh. His fly ball landed just in front of diving center fielder Alexi Amarista and rolled into the gap in right-center. After Alvarez and Russell Martin walked, pinch-hitter Josh Harrison tripled to right-center to clear the bases and cap the five-run inning.
“All our hits were to the big part of the field,” Hurdle said. “Couple balls were pulled to the gap. Everything else, big part of the field, opposite. That was big for us tonight. Something we’ve been talking about, something we’ve been working on. We were able to put it in play tonight.”
The Padres have lost 10 of 14 and tied their season high by dropping 17 1/2 games behind the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers.
Gyorko homered to left on a 1-2 pitch from Burnett leading off the fourth, his 14th.
“I was able to get to him the one time but he did a good job of mixing his pitches,” Gyorko said. “Sometimes you don’t always get the read you want to on the ball.”
Ross (3-6) allowed five runs, four earned, on six hits in 6 1-3 innings, struck out six and walked two.
“It was a tough game. It was a bit of a struggle executing pitches early,” Ross said. “But I did my best to keep the team in it. But Burnett did a good job.”
The series concludes this afternoon when Pirates right-handed pitcher Gerrit Cole (6-5, 3.88 ERA) is scheduled to face right-hander Ian Kennedy (4-9, 5.12 ERA).