Early and often was the Pirates moto today.
Starling Marte got the Bucs rolling with a single in the first before Andrew McCutchen drew a walk to set the table for Jones. The right-fielder took advantage, blasting a 3-2 pitch into the seats for his 18th home run of the season.
Looking to tack on more, Pedro Alvarez followed Jones with a double but was unable to score, leaving the Pirates with a 3-0 advantage after one.
“AJ has been consistent all year,” Jones said of the Pittsburgh pitcher. “Guys were able to hit today. It feels good to score a bunch of runs to get him the win. He is our horse and he has been outstanding all year.”
The Dodgers responded in the second, but not before some controversy. Matt Kemp, the first batter of the inning, was ejected. The LA center fielder only proceeded to the showers after a half-dozen Los Angeles personel escorted him to the dugout.
Manager Don Mattingly immediately followed Kemp’s lead and was tossed for the sixth time this season, but the Dodgers rallied. James Loney connected for a home run on the first pitch he saw to pull Los Angeles within two.
A scoreless third inning ensued before a wild fourth frame.
Mark Ellis recorded a leadoff double and Elian Herrera, in for Kemp, singled. Alvarez was charged with an error on the play that allowed Ellis to score and the Dodgers to close the gap.
Hanley Ramirez then proceeded to put Los Angeles on top with a two-run shot for his 16th home run of the year. The blast was only his second with the Dodgers since being acquired on July 25.
Again, Burnett settled and led the Pirates to the bottom of the fourth down 4-3.
“He came out knowing what was at hand and the [back and forth] game added to his edge,” Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said of Burnett’s outing. “To have to battle like he did, he was laying it all out there. It was a gritty performance.”
This time, it was the bottom of the lineup that responded. Rod Barajas walked and Clint Barmes recorded an RBI triple to tie the game at four.
Burnett mowed down the Dodgers in order in the fifth before turning it over once more to Jones.
A Jordy Mercer single gave way to McCutchen’s third walk of the game and Jones’ second three-run home run. Climbing out of an 0-2 hole, Jones ripped his 19th of the year to the right field seats.
“We connected from top to bottom and we had the guy in the middle with Jones,” Hurdle said. “He is the guy on this team that can cover for McCutchen.”
Jones talked about the lead-up to the blast, “Cutch has a great eye. They were pitching him careful. Maybe too careful. I got the benefit of that and got some pitches over the plate.”
The dinger gave Jones his fifth multi-home run game of his career, the Pirates a 7-4 lead, and the home crowd a reason to cheer the 31-year-old to a curtain call appearance—one that was ultimately granted.
“It was the second curtain call of my career,” Jones said. “That is always special to get. It means you are doing something to help the team win.”
This time Alvarez was able to pile on. He knocked out his 22nd home run of the season just as the Jones applause concluded.
Possibly out of necessity, the sixth inning served as a breather. None of the six batters reached base and the Pirates advanced to the seventh frame with a four run lead.
Los Angeles faced a must-score situation just five batters in. With two outs and the bases juiced, Mark Ellis beat out an infield grounder by sliding into first base. Juan Rivera tested Burnett’s control and won the battle as he was pegged, allowing the sixth Dodger run to score.
Barmes again cleaned up the mess when Pittsburgh’s offense took the field. The shortstop belted a two-RBI single with two outs to stretch the Pirates lead back to four runs.
“It was a grind today. It shows you the fight in this clubhouse,” Burnett said. We kept battling and Jones had a great day at the plate. We were just trying to get some momentum going to St. Louis. It’s one game at a time.”
A quick outing in the ninth inning from closer Joel Hanrahan sealed the deal.
“The more I win, the closer we get,” Burnett said about closing in on a career high in wins. “It would be great, but it’s about us, not about me or career numbers. It’s about trying to do what we did today. It wasn’t pretty; we had to battle.”
James McDonald (10-5, 3.77 ERA) will face Jake Westbrook (12-8, 3.26 ERA) tomorrow at 7:05 in St. Louis as the Pirates take on the Cardinals.