Home Pittsburgh Sports College Football Pirates fall to Reds 3-1

Pirates fall to Reds 3-1

All eyes were on A.J. Burnett as he took the mound for his last regular season start, but the Cincinnati Reds spoiled Burnett’s exit and beat the Pirates 3-1 on Saturday night at PNC Park.

A seventh-inning homerun by Reds left fielder Adam Duvall and a solid outing by rookie Brandon Finnegan helped Cincinnati end their 13-game losing streak and disrupted the Pirates’ plans to clinch home-field advantage in next week’s Wild Card Game.

But despite the ramifications of the Pirates’ 11th loss to the Reds this season, it all felt irrelevant because the evening belonged to Burnett.

Even though the righty collected his 156th career loss rather than his 165th career win, the standing ovation that he received from his fans, teammates, and opponents when the 17-year veteran tipped his hat after he was pulled from the game in the seventh inning proved that some moments in baseball are more important than wins or losses.

“I wanted to win the game. I wanted to put us in a position where we didn’t have to go to Chicago,” Burnett said. “But it was the best night of my career, hands down. Win or loss.”

The opening verse to A.J.’s regular season swan song was not as pleasant as he might have hoped. Burnett surrendered two runs on two hits and an error in a turbulent, 31-pitch first inning.

Reds shortstop Eugenio Suarez singled and advanced to third when Burnett sailed a pick-off throw past first baseman Michael Morse’s glove. Suarez would score on a Joey Votto groundout. After Brandon Phillips singled and stole second, Todd Frazier drilled an opposite-field line drive into right center field to expand Cincinnati’s lead to 2-0.

Following the rough first inning, Burnett settled down significantly. The veteran righty retired 13 consecutive Reds batters at one point and continued to utilize his changeup, which has become a more prominent part of his arsenal since his return from the disabled list, to strike out nine Reds batters.

“The curveball, I think I may have left it at the house. I don’t know where it was,” Burnett said. “To be able to throw that changeup to righties and lefties, it let me get through the middle of that game.”

In the seventh, Burnett left a pitch up and Duvall smacked it into the center field seats. After he walked the next batter, Clint Hurdle exited the dugout and pulled “The Batman” from the game for perhaps the last time.

“That’s what he deserves,” Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli said. “He means a lot for the people here in Pittsburgh. They appreciate what he’s been doing.”

Burnett talked about how his teammates helped him make the decision to come back to Pittsburgh and how special it has been to spend his last season, which included his first trip to the All-Star Game, with his sons.

But, most frequently, he remarked about how graciously the city of Pittsburgh embraced him during his three seasons as a Pirate.

“I’ve had some great moments in my career, I’ve played in some great cities, but nothing like this,” Burnett said.

Burnett allowed three runs on five hits and four walks in 6.2 innings of work. His nine strikeouts gave him 2,513 for his career, which places him 31st on the all-time strikeout list ahead of Hall-of-Famer Christy Mathewson.

While Burnett’s last start will rightfully steal the headlines around town, Reds rookie Brandon Finnegan delivered the game’s best pitching performance.

Josh Harrison led off the game with a triple and scored on a Gregory Polanco groundout, but that was the only blemish on Finnegan’s sheet on Saturday evening.

The 22-year old ex-Royal moved the ball from left to right and continually induced weak contact from confused Pirates batters.

“The ball was running a lot, sinking a lot, and he pitched well,” Cervelli said. “We give him credit.”

Finnegan allowed just one run over six innings on three hits and two walks and picked up his second win as a Reds pitcher. He struck out six.

Aroldis Chapman came in with a man on and two out in the eighth inning to complete a four-out save, his 33rd of the season.

The Chicago Cubs held on the beat the Milwaukee Brewers 1-0 on Saturday night, which means the destination of the Wild Card Game will be decided on Sunday afternoon.

Cervelli said that bringing playoff baseball to PNC Park is what they have been striving to do since the beginning of the season.

“I want to see everybody all in black,” Cervelli said. 

If the Pirates win on Sunday or the Cubs lose, Pittsburgh would host the Wild Card Game.

On deck
The Pirates will send J.A. Happ (10-8, 3.74 ERA) to the mound to take on Reds righty Josh Smith (0-3, 7.22 ERA) on Sunday afternoon at 3:05 PM at PNC Park.

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