It’s not a surprise now, but it would have been a week ago: the Pirates will go to Gerrit Cole over A.J. Burnett in Wednesday’s decisive Game 5 against the Cardinals.
Burnett has won 26 games with a 3.49 ERA in his two seasons with the Pirates, but that’s all been undone by one hideous inning in the Game 1 loss. After starting off with a pair of scoreless frames, Burnett retired none of the seven hitters he faced in the third and all came around to scored in the 9-1 loss.
Cole, the first overall pick in the 2011 MLB draft, followed that up with six innings of one-run ball in a Game 2 victory.
If Burnett’s Game 1 struggles were the end of it, the Pirates likely would have given him the ball again. However, the career 6.37 postseason ERA weighs heavily here. Mental toughness has always been a question mark with Burnett, and the fact is that the Pirates have more faith in the rookie right now.
Dating back to the regular season, Cole has won five straight starts. When the Pirates score three runs, they’re 19-1 with Cole on the mound.
Angels DH Albert Pujols passed Mark McGwire for sole possession of 10th place on baseball’s all-time home run leaderboard, slugging his 584th career home run in the first inning of Wednesday night’s game against the Blue Jays.
Mike Trout had already slugged a solo home run off of Jays starter Marco Estrada to bring Pujols to the dish. Pujols jumped on an 0-1 cut fastball, sending it out to left-center field, clearing the fence by a few feet.
Pujols, who finished 4-for-4 with the homer and an RBI double, is batting .257/.321/.441 with 24 home runs and 99 RBI on the year. His next target on the home run leaderboard is Frank Robinson at 586.
Orioles closer Zach Britton had appeared in a major league record 43 consecutive games without allowing an earned run, spanning May 5 to August 22. That streak came to an end on Wednesday evening against the Nationals.
The Orioles entered the bottom of the ninth inning holding a 10-3 lead, but reliever Parker Bridwell immediately found himself in hot water. He yielded back-to-back singles to Danny Espinosa and Clint Robinson. He was able to strike out Trea Turner, but walked Jayson Werth to load the bases. Daniel Murphy then crushed his first career grand slam to make it a 10-7 game. That prompted manager Buck Showalter to bring in Britton.
Britton, too, was knocked around. He served up a single to Bryce Harper, followed by a double to Anthony Rendon that scored Harper, pushing the score to 10-8 and ending Britton’s streak. Wilson Ramos reached on a fielder’s choice back to Britton, but the lefty finally finished the game by getting Ryan Zimmerman to ground into a game-ending 4-6-3 double play.
Britton now holds a nice 0.69 ERA with 38 saves and a 61/16 K/BB ratio in 52 innings of work this season.