Pirates activate A.J. Burnett from the disabled list

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As planned, the Pirates have activated right-handed starter A.J. Burnett from the 15-day disabled list.

He will start for the Pirates on Sunday afternoon against the Cubs after sitting out for the past three-plus weeks because of a strained right calf muscle.

Burnett has registered a fantastic 3.12 ERA and 1.13 ERA in 14 starts this season, fanning 99 batters and issuing only 35 walks in 89 1/3 innings. The 36-year-old Arkansas native owns an impressive 3.39 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 8.6 K/9 in 291 2/3 total frames since joining Pittsburgh via a trade from the Yankees before the start of the 2012 campaign.

The Pirates enter play Sunday with one-game lead over the Cardinals in the National League Central.

Battle of the Aces: Max Scherzer takes on Clayton Kershaw tonight

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I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.

Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.

This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.

Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.