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.
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.
The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.
Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.
Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”
Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.
The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.