A.J. Burnett’s dud could end career on a sour note

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Despite another strong season in which he posted a 3.30 ERA and finished fifth in the NL with 209 strikeouts, free-agent-to-be A.J. Burnett is contemplating retirement this winter. It’s hard to imagine that he’ll want to go out like that, though.

Burnett was blasted for seven runs in two-plus innings Thursday in the Pirates’ Game 1 loss to the Cardinals. After starting off with a pair of scoreless innings, he retired none of the seven hitters he faced in the third.

The outing left the 36-year-old Burnett 2-3 with a 6.37 ERA in eight postseason starts. He has two World Series rings anyway. The first came with the Marlins in 2003, though he didn’t pitch in October that year after Tommy John surgery. He also got one in 2009, when the Yankees won in spite of his struggles. Burnett did pitch well in his previous postseason start in the 2011 ALDS against the Tigers, allowing one run in 5 2/3 innings and picking up a win.

The Pirates will probably go back to Burnett in Game 5 against the Cardinals if the series gets that far, though they’d certainly have him on a shorter leash in that one than they did today. Game 2 starter, Gerrit Cole, would also be able to pitch Game 5 on normal rest, which could set up a tough decision if Cole excels tomorrow. The Pirates are going to need him to if they’re going to have much of a shot at coming back in the series.

The Angels were the first team to use up all of their mound visits

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Last night’s Angels-Astros game was a long affair with a bunch of homers and the use of 11 pitchers in all. The Angels used six pitchers and all of that business led to plenty of conferences. Six, in fact, which is their allotment under the new rule capping mound visits. As far as I can tell, that makes the Angels the first team to use up all of their mound visits since the advent of the rule.

Sadly, they did not try to go for a seventh, thereby testing the currently unknown limits of the rule. Umpires have been instructed to not allow additional mound visits, but they cannot issue balls or tackle anyone or anything to enforce it. Presumably, if Maldonado had walked out to talk to Cam Bedrosian about the weather or where he was going to dinner after the game, the home plate umpire would’ve simply done the old Robin Williams English policeman’s bit of yelling “Stop! . . . or I shall yell ‘Stop!’ again!” Maybe a fine would issue later, but we’ll never know.

At least until someone breaks the limit. And we know someone will, right? We should have a betting pool on who does it.