While Hernandez looks to win his fourth consecutive start, Burnett tries for his fourth straight victory as the teams conclude their two-game interleague series Wednesday at PNC Park.
Hernandez (4-2, 1.60 ERA) has allowed two earned runs, struck out 35 and walked two in 30 innings to go 3-0 in four starts since he yielded seven earned in 13 innings while losing the previous two."I've been aggressive, I've been throwing a lot of strikes and that's the key for me," Hernandez said.
The right-hander gave up five hits and fanned seven in eight innings of a 4-0 win at Toronto on Friday."He's special," Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager said. "He goes about his business. You give him a couple of runs and you know he's going to take care of the rest."
In his only previous meeting versus Pittsburgh (19-15) in 2007, Hernandez yielded six hits and struck out nine in eight innings of a 3-0 home victory.
He's 13-7 with a 2.88 ERA in 26 interleague starts.
"He's as good as there is," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle told MLB's official website. "He's built for endurance. He's got power, spin, changes speeds, locale - the total package off the mound. A dominant pitcher."
Hernandez also has fared well the three times he's squared off with Burnett (3-2, 2.57), allowing five runs in 23 2-3 innings while going 2-0. Pitching for Toronto and the New York Yankees in those matchups, Burnett yielded nine runs in 21 innings and went 0-1.
Burnett, however, has not allowed more than three runs in any of his seven starts in 2013 and is 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA in the last four. The right-hander gave up one run and struck out nine in seven innings of a 3-1 win over Washington on Friday."He's approaching every single pitch he makes with total conviction," Hurdle said.
Burnett also ranks among the major league leaders with 57 strikeouts."Strikeouts are always good to have and I like to put people away," Burnett said. "There will be some nights where I won't have many strikeouts, so you take them when you can get them."
He's fanned 55 while going 3-2 with a 3.71 ERA in eight starts versus Seattle.
Burnett has a chance to help the Pirates sweep this brief set after Jeanmar Gomez pitched five scoreless innings, Garrett Jones had a two-run homer and Andrew McCutchen added four hits with an RBI in Tuesday's 4-1 win over Seattle (15-19).
Pittsburgh has outscored its opponents 68-34 to win 12 of 15 interleague home games.
McCutchen has gone 13 for 28 (.464) with five RBIs in seven games to raise his average 60 points to .276. He's batted .463 with 13 RBIs over his last 14 interleague contests.
Seager had one of the five hits Tuesday for Seattle, which has dropped two in a row after winning seven of nine. He is batting .359 (14 for 39) in 10 career interleague road games.
Seattle outfielder and ex-Pirate Jason Bay is batting .364 (8 for 22) with two doubles and a home run versus Burnett
|April 23, 2013||Franklin Gutierrez||15-Day DL||Strained right hamstring|
|April 22, 2013||Franklin Gutierrez||Day-to-Day||Torn right hamstring|
|April 15, 2013||Stephen Pryor||15-Day DL||Torn right lat muscle|
|April 12, 2013||Michael Morse||Day-to-Day||Fractured finger|
|April 11, 2013||Michael Saunders||15-Day DL||Sprained right shoulder|
|April 11, 2013||Michael Saunders||15-Day DL||Sprained right shoulder|
|May 07, 2013||James McDonald||15-Day DL||Right shoulder discomfort|
|April 27, 2013||Travis Snider||Day-to-Day||Left side discomfort|
|April 27, 2013||Neil Walker||15-Day DL||Right index finger laceration|
|April 26, 2013||Neil Walker||Day-to-Day||Left game - right index finger|
|April 09, 2013||Wandy Rodriguez||Day-to-Day||Left game - left leg strain|
|March 26, 2013||Brandon Inge||15-Day DL||Right scapula soreness|
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle predicted that it wouldn't matter how well the Pirates swung the bat if Mariners ace Felix Hernandez did his thing.
For about four batters on Wednesday, Hurdle looked as if he might be wrong. Pittsburgh bolted to a quick lead and had runners on first and second with one out before the game was 20 minutes old.
The door to a big inning was ajar.
Hernandez quickly slammed it shut, settling down after a shaky start to lead the Mariners to a 2-1 victory and a split of the brief two-game interleague series.
"I was OK," Hernandez said. "I didn't have my very best stuff but I battled hard ... Luckily, I kept us in the game and we were able to win."
Hernandez (5-2) struck out five and walked one to improve to 4-0 in his last five starts while shaving his ERA to 1.53. Tom Wilhelmsen worked the ninth for his ninth save.
Pittsburgh's A.J. Burnett (3-3) was almost as sharp, giving up just two hits over seven innings while striking out nine. Yet he also walked four batters and gave up Montero's third homer of the season with one out in the seventh.
The shot to the first row of seats in right-center field was a boost for the slumping Montero, who came into the game hitting just .203.
"The kid is working so hard," Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. "He's so young and he's learning so much. I think he's starting to get to the point where he can put a little more energy into his hitting and not have to worry quite so much about his catching."
Starling Marte had two hits for Pittsburgh and Andrew McCutchen added an RBI single but the Pirates didn't muster much after Hernandez found his footing.
"He got some balls up early but then he got into his delivery and that allowed his arm to start working and he executed his pitches," Wedge said. "He was getting them to take a lot of bad swings."
The showdown between the two staff aces lived up to its billing. Hernandez entered the game ranked in the top five in the American League in ERA and strikeouts while Burnett came in unbeaten in nearly a month and second in the National League in strikeouts behind New York's Matt Harvey .
Hernandez's only miscue came in the first. Starling Marte led off with a double - his 17th lead-off hit this season - then came around to score when McCutchen singled up the middle with one out. Garrett Jones then walked, but Pittsburgh's promising inning disappeared when Mike McKenry hit into a double-play.
It was the fourth straight game in which the Pirates let a potentially big first inning slip away. Pittsburgh went just 1 for 6 with runners in scoring position.
"It just seems that we've got to find a better answer," Hurdle said. "Maybe it's our mindset but we're getting pitched tough. It's not like it's chopped liver we've been facing."
Hernandez didn't botch his reprieve. Pittsburgh only managed to get one runner to third the rest of the way. Jordy Mercer doubled leading off the fifth and advanced to third with one out. Burnett, however, couldn't square a sacrifice bunt and Marte struck out.
Burnett cruised through the first three innings, needing an economical 32 pitches to retire the first nine batters. Yet his control briefly abandoned him in the fourth and his unfamiliarity with backup catcher McKenry may have cost the Pirates a run.
Michael Saunders and Jason Bay walked leading off the fourth and were on second and third with two outs when Burnett bounced a curveball to home plate that smacked off McKenry - who was catching Burnett for just the second time in the regular season due to a neck injury to starter Russell Martin - and rolled away, allowing Saunders to race home and tie the game.
The wild pitch came after Burnett nearly struck out Dustin Ackley on a 1-2 fastball that appeared to paint the inside corner. Home plate umpire Paul Schrieber ruled it a ball, and seconds later Saunders was sprinting home.
"I thought it was a close pitch," Burnett said. "I just sometimes think my stuff's nasty, so sometimes they (umpires) miss it too."
Burnett had little trouble with one of the worst offenses in the majors until the seventh, when Montero took a 91 mph fastball and put it in the first row of seats in center. Hernandez and Wilhelmsen took care of the rest as the Mariners improved to 8-4 in their last 12 games as they try to bounce back from a horrific start.
All three of Montero's homers have come in games started and won by Hernandez.
"That's crazy how things are happening," Montero said. "I hit a home run, he pitches and we win. It's unbelievable."
NOTES: The Pirates released RHP Jonathan Sanchez on Wednesday. The team designated him for assignment last week ... The Mariners are off on Thursday then host Oakland for a weekend series starting Friday. Hisashi Iwakuma (3-1, 1.61) starts for Seattle against Dan Straily (1-0, 5.94) ... Pittsburgh begins a four-game set in New York against the Mets on Thursday. Jeff Locke (3-1, 3.21) faces New York's Dillon Gee (2-4, 6.16) ... The Pirates called up 2007 second-round pick RHP Duke Welker on Wednesday. Welker was 3-0 with a 0.00 ERA at Triple-A Indianapolis this season.