Burnett Baffles the Cubs – Cubs 2, Pirates 6

Game Fifty-Nine – Cubs 2, Pirates 6

WP – A.J. Burnett (4-6) LP – Jeff Samardzija (3-7) Save – None

The Cubs struggles against the Pirates continued on Saturday as Dale Sveum’s team dropped their fifth straight game to Pittsburgh. A.J. Burnett shut out the Cubs for 8 1/3 innings before Alfonso Soriano (1-for-4 with a home run and two RBI) put the Cubs on the board for the first time in the series (17 1/3 innings) with a two-run homer.

Jeff Samardzija did not have it on Saturday. Samardzija struggled with his command and appeared to be favoring the finger on his pitching hand that he cut in Cincinnati. The Pirates scored in three straight innings (second through the fourth) and put the game out of reach with the way the offense is not producing right now. Samardzija’s final line looks better than he pitched. Samardzija gave up four runs on eight hits with a walk and seven strikeouts in six innings and it might have been worse if not for plays by David DeJesus, Darwin Barney, Welington Castillo and Nate Schierholtz that took hits, and possibly runs, away from the Pirates. Samardzija threw 112 pitches, 74 for strikes, before turning the game over to the pen.

Zach Putnam struck out the side in order in the seventh but the Pirates added to their 4-0 lead against Hector Rondon in the eighth. Russell Martin hit a long, two run homer of Rondon that turned a bad game into a blowout. Blake Parker pitched a scoreless ninth.

The Cubs offense was stifled by Pirates pitching again. For the second time in as many days, the Cubs broke up a no-hit bid by a Pirates starter in the fifth inning. Nate Schierholtz (1-for-4 with a double) doubled to start the inning. The Cubs squared up several offerings from A.J. Burnett, there were several hard hit balls but they were either right at Pirates’ defenders or the ball was caught in the outfield on excellent plays by Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and Travis Snider.

The Cubs did not put two runners on base until the sixth inning and could not push across a run while the game was still in question. Alfonso Soriano broke up the shutout with his seventh homer of the season in the ninth inning, a two-run shot that ended up on Waveland Avenue. Anthony Rizzo (1-for-3 with a walk and a run scored) reached with a one out single ahead of Soriano’s blast.

Alfonso Soriano tied Orlando Cepeda and Tony Perez for 64th on the All-Time home run list with no. 379 of his career on Saturday afternoon.

The Cubs offense scored two runs on four hits with three walks and went 0-for-6 with RISP and left four men on base.

With Saturday’s loss, the Cubs dropped back to 11 games under .500 on the season with a 24-35 record.

Jeff Samardzija retired all three batters he faced to start the game but it was obvious early on that Samardzija did not have his good stuff. Marte put together a long at bat that ended with a liner to Soriano in left. Samardzija struck out Snider and McCutchen flied out to DeJesus in deep center for the third out.

The Pirates took a commanding 1-0 lead in the second inning. Garrett Jones doubled to right to start the inning. Russell Martin grounded out to second, Jones advanced to third and trotted home when Pedro Alvarez lined a single into center with the infield in. Neil Walker singled to right (3-2 pitch) and Alvarez advanced to third with one down. Clint Barmes chopped a 0-1 pitch back up the middle that Barney fielded and started a 4-3 inning ending double play. Barney made a difficult play look routine. Samardzija needed 36 pitches, 24 for strikes, to complete two innings of work.

Starling Marte singled with one out in the third. Marte then swiped second on a 1-0 pitch to Snider … and his speed led to the Pirates’ second run. Travis Snider ripped a single into center. Marte scored, 2-0 Pirates. Samardzija struck out McCutchen and Jones swinging to end the inning … 54 pitches for Samardzija after three, 36 for strikes.

While the Cubs could not buy a hit against A.J. Burnett, the Pirates tacked onto their lead with a monster shot by Pedro Alvarez in the fourth.

Samardzija walked Russell Martin to start the fourth then fell behind Alvarez. Samardzija hung a slider to Alvarez on a 2-2 pitch and the ball ended up on Sheffield Avenue. Alvarez’s 13th homer of the season gave the Pirates a 4-0 lead.

The Pirates looked like they were going to add onto their lead again in the fifth and knock Samardzija out of the game. Marte led off the fifth with a single to right center and took off for second on a 2-1 pitch to Snider but Welington Castillo threw him out and Snider flied out to left. McCutchen ripped a single to left (3-2 pitch) and Garrett Jones lined out to a diving Nate Schierholtz in right to end the inning.

The Cubs notched their first hit in the fifth. Nate Schierholtz doubled to start the inning but did not advance. Castillo (swinging strikeout), Castro (second lineout of the game) and Barney (lineout to left) went down in order to end the inning.

Jeff Samardzija put together his best inning in the sixth. Samardzija set down the side in order and struck out the last two batters he faced (Alvarez, Walker) to end the inning.

The game remained 4-0 Pirates through the seventh inning. Zach Putnam struck out the Pirates in order in the seventh and Burnett continued his domination of the Chicago Cubs.

Russell Martin made it 6-0 Pirates in the eighth with a long, two-run homer off Hector Rondon after Rondon issued a one-out walk to Andrew McCutchen.

Blake Parker tossed a scoreless ninth inning and the game went to the bottom of the ninth with the Cubs on the verge of being shutout in back-to-back games at Wrigley Field.

Anthony Rizzo singled to left with one out in the ninth, just the Cubs’ third hit of the game. Alfonso Soriano then launched a 2-2 pitch onto Waveland and broke up the shut out. After Burnett made a spectacle of himself by visibly cursing his pitching coach, Clint Hurdle went to his pen for left Tony Watson. Watson threw nine pitches and recorded the last two outs of the game.

Edwin Jackson faces lefty Jeff Locke in the series finale with the Bucs on Sunday afternoon.

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