A.J. Burnett pitches Pirates within one game of home field advantage in the NL Wild Card playoff


Pirates starter and potential upcoming retiree A.J. Burnett shut the Reds down over eight solid innings of work, allowing just one run on five hits and a walk while striking out six. The lone run came on a Todd Frazier solo home run in the fourth.

Homer Bailey wasn’t sharp, allowing four runs on four hits and four walks while striking out three in five innings. The Pirates scored twice in the third on Marlon Byrd’s two-run single to left and twice in the sixth on Pedro Alvarez’s two-run homer. The Cincinnati bullpen did their part to keep the game close, but Burnett was just too good, lowering his ERA on the season to 3.30.

Jason Grilli entered the game in the ninth and worked around two lead-off singles to record his 33rd save of the season.

The win moves the Pirates to 92-68, two games ahead of the Reds, meaning that a win either tomorrow or Sunday will give the Pirates home-field advantage in the NL Wild Card playoff game. As Travis Sawchik explained in a column posted last night, home-field advantage could prove to be an important asset to the Pirates specifically. Francisco Liriano projects to be the starter and he carries a 1.47 home ERA compared to a 4.32 road ERA.

Henderson Alvarez signs with Tigres de Quintana Roo

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Free agent right-hander Henderson Alvarez signed a deal with the Tigres de Quintana Roo of the Mexican Baseball League earlier this week, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Friday. The righty wasn’t necessarily too fringey a player to hack it in the big leagues, but there were no MLB takers in attendance during his showcase in Venezuela last month and he clearly felt it best to try his luck elsewhere.

The 27-year-old’s last major league gig came with the Phillies, for whom he delivered a 4.30 ERA, 6.8 BB/9 and 3.7 SO/9 over 14 2/3 innings in 2017. While he’s not too far removed from his first and only All-Star bid in 2014, he was besieged by shoulder issues in 2015 and 2016 and underwent season-ending surgeries as a result.

That added injury risk, coupled with the fact that he hasn’t pitched more than 22 innings in a single season since 2014, may have been too much for major league teams to take on this spring. Assuming he steers clear of further injuries, however, a return to the majors may not be entirely out of the question in years to come.