A.J. Burnett loses no-hitter in eighth

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11:00 p.m. EDT update: Burnett retired the side in order in the ninth to finish a one-hit shutout of the Cubs. It was his first shutout since 2006, his first year with the Blue Jays, but his 10th overall. He moved to 13-3 with a 3.27 ERA for the season.

10:39 p.m. EDT update: Burnett lost the no-hitter on an Adrian Cardenas single with two outs in the eighth.

Burnett previously hit Darwin Barney in the helmet with a pitch in the eighth, forcing Barney from the game. It was a breaking ball, though, and it actually was only rib-high, except Barney had the misfortune of ducking right into it.

Despite the little bout with wildness, Burnett easily could have gone into the ninth with the no-no intact. He threw a 2-2 curve to Cardenas that looked like a strike on the outside corner, but it was called a ball with the catcher having been set up inside. Cardenas lined the next pitch to right field.

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With one no-hitter already under his belt, the Pirates’ A.J. Burnett is now six outs away from No. 2. He retired the Cubs on six pitches in the seventh and is at just 74 pitches after seven innings.

It’d be a sharp contrast from Burnett’s previous no-hitter against the Padres on May 12, 2001. Pitching for the Marlins, he walked nine batters that night and threw 129 pitches against a lineup that included Rickey Henderson, Ryan Klesko and Dave Magadan (hitting cleanup!). Burnett has walked just two batters tonight.

If Burnett can get it done, it’d be the first time the Cubs have been no-hit in 47 years.

Imagining Theo Epstein in politics

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“When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer.”

Or: “When Theo Epstein won World Series championships with the two most championship-starved franchises in baseball history, he got bored, and decided to run for the Senate or something.”

That latter bit is the premise of a Politico piece speculating that the Cubs president could go into politics one day. The story features an interview with former Obama chief strategist David Axlerod, who thinks Theo has what it takes. Mostly what he has is fame, popularity, good looks and money. No idea what his positions on issue are, but that other stuff goes a long way in politics these days.

Bonus: given what we just elected last fall, a guy who once had a little temper tantrum and dressed up in a gorilla suit is just as viable a candidate as anyone.

Another interestingly named player is promoted by the Pirates

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When you promote a player from the minors, the first and foremost consideration is whether or not he can help your ball club. But, assuming that’s taken care of, teams should really, really make it a priority to call up dudes with cool sounding names because it makes life more interesting for the rest of us.

The Pirates are doing that. The other night Dovydas Neverauskas made his big league debut. In addition to being the first Lithuanian born-and-raised player in major league history, it’s a solid, solid name. Now the Pirates are making another promotion: Gift Ngoepe.

Yep, Gift Ngoepe. He’s an infielder from South Africa, making the leap to the bigs due to David Freese‘s hamstring injury. Ngoepe, 27, was batting just .241/.308/.379 through 66 plate appearances this season with Triple-A Indianapolis, his ninth in the minors, so he’s not exactly a prospect. But man, that’s a killer name.

It’s also worth mentioning that Gift and Neverauskas were arrested together in a bar fight last August in Toledo, so there is already a good basis for some bonding here.

Good luck, Gift. Gift Ngoepe. Mr. Ngoepe. G-Ngo. Man, I could do this all day.