MLB Playoffs

Cardinals give Pirates regal butt-kicking

By Bob Elliott, Toronto Sun

St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay slides safely past Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Russell Martin to score a run during Game 1 of their National League Divisional Series at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Oct. 3, 2013. (JEFF CURRY/USA Today)

St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay slides safely past Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Russell Martin to score a run during Game 1 of their National League Divisional Series at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Oct. 3, 2013. (JEFF CURRY/USA Today)



Pitcher facing pitcher in the post-season?

Not too sound too American League on you, but will it be a two-pitch or a three-pitch strike out.

A.J. Burnett couldn’t retire Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright leading off the third inning and seven hitters later Burnett still hadn’t retired anyone.

The seven-run, third powered the St. Louis Cardinals to a 9-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the best-of-five, National League Division Series opener before 45,693 fans Thursday afternoon.

Game 2 goes Friday afternoon with the Bucs sending Gerrit Cole against Lance Lynn.

With the New York Yankees no where to be found this October, the Cardinals are the game’s royalty and they administered a regal butt-kicking making it seem as if the Bucs had not been to post-season play in over 20 years, which was the case.

Burnett threw his knuckle curve on the 1-2 pitch to Wainwright for a ball and three pitches later the Cards starter walked after not earning one this season in 81 trips to the plate.

“When you face a pitcher you think you’ve got him, but sometimes they get you,” said Cards reliever John Axford, of Port Dover, Ont., given the night off with such a large lead. “Adam is a good hitter, he had three hits, three starts ago against the Colorado Rockies.”

Wainwright, a career .205 hitter in 490 plate appearances, batted .211 this year.

“This year, still with the Milwaukee Brewers, Carlos Villeneuva (Chicago Cubs) had a hit off me to knock in two runs,” said Axford.

Maybe Villeneuva was trying to get even for Axford winning the Brewers closing job from him in 2010.

Back to ex-Jay, A.J., after Matt Carpenter singled to climb 10-for-23 (.435) lifetime off of Burnett, who was throwing 94-95 m.p.h. before the anthem singers returned to their seats.

“His trouble that inning was fastball command,” Carpenters said.

Carlos Beltran hit a 2-1 pitch deep to right for his 15th career post-season homer and a 3-0 lead. Only Babe Ruth has more.

A Matt Holliday double preceded Burnett hitting Matt Adams in the foot and a six-pitch walk to Yadier Molina loaded the bases. Then, a six-pitch walk to John Jay forced in a run before a weird play.

David Freese slapped the ball past first baseman Justin Morneau into the right field corner for a two-run single. Bucs right fielder Marlon Byrd came up throwing on a line. The ball hit Freese and kicked towards the Cards first-base dugout, allowing Jay to score. Shades of Reggie Jackson getting hit with the ball keeping the Yanks out of a double play against the Dodgers in a past October.

“Carlos hit a fastball for the homer, I hit a fastball, we had some good at-bats,” Carpenter said.

After striking out more hitters on his curve than any NL starter with the exception of Wainwright, Burnett threw six knuckle curves and all but the Holliday double went for balls: The 1-2 pitch to Wainwright, the 0-1 pitch he hit Adams, the 2-2 pitch to Molina, the 2-2 to Jay and the 1-2 to Freese, which began the snowball fight.

And that was that for the right-hander, a 34-pitch inning in which he faced eight men, didn’t get ahead of one hitter, threw 38 pitches and didn’t retire a man.

“We thought if could get a ground ball double play, we could get some balance and keep the game where it was (3-0), three feet to the left we get it, but the ball was by us,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle told reporters. “(Burnett) didn’t have his stuff. Did he have the ability to get the grounder? We thought he did. He got out of the previous inning with a ground ball by (David) Descalso for a double play.”

For Burnett, who brought a 13.50 ERA at Busch into the game, it wasn’t even his worst outing in St. Louis if you can imagine. Last year on May 2 he worked 22/3 innings allowing 12 runs on 12 hits and two walks as Beltran homered twice, while Descalso and Carpenter each tripled.

“Hit a fastball off him that game too,” Carpenter said.

So, maybe it wasn’t Burnett’s bad knuckle curve.

He struggled with all parts of his arsenal.

Besides the Byrd throwing error, Barmes had a clank and centre fielder Andrew McCutchen bobbled a ball in centre. The errors led to two unearned runs.

Fielding did not cost the Bucs.

“We’ve had some big innings,” said Cards manager Mike Matheny, “but it seems like we’ve had some that keep going —no one wants to make the last out.

“Remember it started with a walk by our pitcher and a couple of big walks in the middle. Guys stayed locked in, stayed in their zone.”

And Burnett could not find his.


The first thing Justin Morneau did when Minnesota general manager Terry Ryan informed him he’d been traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Aug. 31 was to text Bucs catcher Russell Martin.

“Need a roomie?”

Morneau had knocked Martin for his late choice to bail on catching for catcher in the World Baseball Classic for Canada in March. Martin wanted to play shortstop and neither the Pirates nor Team Canada agreed to that.

All is forgotten in October.

The Pirates may need some short memories to forget their 9-1 thumping at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals Thursday in the opener of the National League division series.

“That’s it,” said centre fielder Andrew McCutchen. “Not every game is going to be close. It sucks that it wasn’t close, but it’s better to be Game 1 than Game 5. We got our butts whipped but it might be a good thing. We can show up (Sunday), shake it off, get our rest, and come back.”

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