The Pirates finally got a look at offseason acquisition A.J. Burnett on Saturday in Pittsburgh. And they had to be pretty pleased with what they saw.
Burnett loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the first inning, but he wiggled out of that jam with two strikeouts and a lineout, and wound up yielding just three hits over seven shutout innings against the defending World Series champion Cardinals.
The 35-year-old right-hander struck out seven, walked just two and allowed only three hits.
53 of his 76 pitches went for strikes.
Burnett is fully recovered from the fractured orbital bone that he suffered during a late-spring bunting drill and looks poised to provide the Pirates’ starting rotation with some semblance of stability this summer. In case you’re keeping score at home, the National League Central remains a far more comfortable division for pitchers than the American League East.
Your Saturday box scores:
Cardinals 0, Pirates 2
Reds 1, Cubs 6
Marlins 2, Nationals 3
Rangers 10, Tigers 4 (Game 1)
Giants 4, Mets 5
Yankees 15, Red Sox 9
White Sox 4, Mariners 0
Dodgers 5, Astros 1
Rangers 2, Tigers 3 (Game 2)
Blue Jays 9, Royals 5
Rockies 4, Brewers 9
Twins 1, Rays 4
Braves 3, Diamondbacks 2
Phillies 1, Padres 5
Orioles 3, Angels 6
Indians 5, Athletics 1
With Game 6 of the NLCS just hours away, the Dodgers will opt for a lefty-heavy lineup against right-hander Kyle Hendricks. Batting leadoff is rookie outfielder Andrew Toles, who made one appearance at the top of the lineup during the 2016 season. The Cubs, meanwhile, will bench Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.. This will be Almora’s first start of the playoffs, and while he has yet to face Kershaw in October, his right-handed bat could play well against the lefty at the bottom of the lineup.
Game time is scheduled for 8 PM EDT; lineups are below.
1. Andrew Toles (L) LF
6. Wilson Contreras (R) C
8. Albert Almora Jr. (R) RF
9. Kyle Hendricks (R) RHP
UPDATE, 5:08 PM EDT: Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon will not rule out a World Series appearance for Kyle Schwarber if the Cubs advance. MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat reports that Schwarber could play through a simulated game on Sunday, during which the Cubs’ medical and baseball staff would evaluate his chances for a late season return. If he does play, it will likely be in a pinch-hitting or DH role and not on the field.
Cubs’ outfielder Kyle Schwarber will return to the playing field on Saturday, per a report by the Chicago Tribune’s Mark Gonzales. The club’s prized left fielder suffered a season-ending injury when he collided with Dexter Fowler back in April, tearing both his ACL and LCL and undergoing intensive knee surgery later that month.
While no nerve damage was discovered during the surgery, the Cubs have kept a close eye on Schwarber during his recovery and put a kibosh on any part-time or full-time role with the team until the spring of 2017. Getting a few reps in during the Arizona Fall League appears to be the last step in the 23-year-old’s rehab process. He will be part of the Mesa Solar Sox’ ‘taxi squad,’ making him eligible for games on Wednesdays and Saturdays only.
Schwarber batted .246/.355/.487 with 16 in 69 games with the Cubs during his debut season in 2015. He will be added to the Mesa Solar Sox roster in advance of their set against the Salt River Rafters on Saturday evening.