A.J. Burnett and Jeff Samardzija have been on the wrong end of plenty of pitchers' duels this season.
The two starters will square off Saturday at Wrigley Field looking to continue the struggles of the opposing offenses.
The Cubs (24-34) and Pirates (36-25) traded zeros for most of Pittsburgh's 2-0 victory Friday, the Pirates' league-leading 10th shutout of the season."It just speaks to the job the pitchers are doing here," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We've been able to get a little better at it every year, and this year obviously we've taken it to another level at this point in the season."
It was the fourth loss in five games for the Cubs, who were held to five singles. During that stretch, they have batted .215 with three home runs after posting a .283 average with 11 homers during their season-high five-game winning streak.
Meanwhile, the Pirates have scored just 13 runs while losing five of seven. They have a .169 batting average in that stretch, and rank last in the majors with a .182 average in June.
Burnett (3-6, 3.22 ERA) is used to not getting much support. His 2.67 run-support average is the fourth-worst in the league. Pittsburgh has scored seven runs over his last six starts, and as a result, Burnett hasn't won since May 3. The Pirates have lost five of his last six outings.
The right-hander didn't give Pittsburgh much of a chance in his last start, however, surrendering six runs in five innings of a 7-2 loss to Atlanta on Monday. He started strong, yielding a single and two walks through three scoreless innings, but a leadoff walk and a two-run homer by Brian McCann in the fourth, the first of three two-run shots off Burnett, sullied his night."I was making pitches early but that last inning I wasn't able to make pitches," Burnett said. "I got behind hitters. That's a good-swinging team and you can't get behind them. Especially throwing cookies in there when you do get behind them."
He is 4-0 with a 3.09 ERA in five starts at Wrigley, but will want to be careful with Starlin Castro , who is 8 for 16 lifetime in their matchups.
Burnett will be opposed by another hard-luck pitcher in Samardzija (3-6, 2.96). The Cubs righty turned in another strong outing against Arizona on June 1, fanning 11 while allowing three runs in 6 1-3 innings before leaving without a decision in a 12-4 loss.
Samardzija has struck out at least seven in four consecutive games, holding opposing hitters to a .162 average during that stretch. He is 2-1 with a 1.78 ERA in his last four appearances after losing five straight decisions.
Samardzija, who will be pitching on six days' rest, has a 0.60 ERA and limited opponents to a .096 average when working on six-plus days of rest.
He has been outstanding in four career starts against the Pirates, going 3-1 with a 0.84 ERA. His lifetime 0.98 ERA versus Pittsburgh is his best against any team.
Andrew McCutchen is one of the few Pirates to experience any success against Samardzija, going 6 for 16 (.375) with three doubles.
|June 03, 2013||Phil Irwin||60-Day DL||Right arm fatigue|
|June 03, 2013||Jeanmar Gomez||15-Day DL||Right forearm tightness|
|May 28, 2013||Jose Contreras||15-Day DL||Lower back inflammation|
|May 25, 2013||Jose Tabata||15-Day DL||Strained left oblique - out 3-4 weeks|
|May 19, 2013||Andrew McCutchen||Day-to-Day||Sore right knee|
|May 15, 2013||John McDonald||15-Day DL||Lower back discomfort|
|May 27, 2013||Kyuji Fujikawa||60-Day DL||Right elbow surgery - out for season|
|May 27, 2013||Rafael Dolis||15-Day DL||Strained right forearm|
|May 26, 2013||Kyuji Fujikawa||Day-to-Day||Left game - Right forearm strain|
|May 22, 2013||Shawn Camp||15-Day DL||Sprained right big toe|
|April 14, 2013||Steve Clevenger||60-Day DL||Left oblique strain|
|April 13, 2013||Steve Clevenger||Day-to-Day||Left oblique injury|
CHICAGO (AP) -- Only the complete game and shutout eluded Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett in a stadium where he loves to pitch.
Burnett pitched into the ninth inning and Pedro Alvarez and Russell Martin homered to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 6-2 win over the Chicago Cubs on Saturday.
"You program yourself," Burnett said after coming within two outs of his team's first complete game this season. "You want to finish what you started."
Burnett (4-6) gave up four hits and three walks with five strikeouts in 8 1-3 innings to improve to 5-0 in his career at Wrigley Field. He had a shutout until Alfonso Soriano 's two-run home run to left with one out in the ninth ended a string of 18 straight scoreless innings by Pirates pitchers.
"It was the only ball that hung," Burnett said of the shot by Soriano. "He did with it what you're supposed to do with it. I go back a long way with Sori. ... I've gotten him a few times, he's gotten me.
"But you know, you can bury that pitch right there and I've buried it."
Burnett held the Cubs hitless until Nate Schierholtz 's double down the line in right leading off the fifth. He threw 112 pitches and left after Soriano's home run.
Burnett did not want to come out after allowing a single to Anthony Rizzo before Soriano's home run, and despite a mound conference, manager Clint Hurdle said he had no intention of removing his starter until 115 pitches or some runs scored.
"You've got to give men an opportunity to do certain things no matter where you are or who it is, and he's earned that opportunity," Hurdle said. "There's been many games he's given us everything he's had."
Burnett threw a one-hitter in his last start at Wrigley Field last July 31. He lost the no-hitter in the eighth inning with two outs in that outing.
"It's a good place," Burnett said. "It's a good environment. A day game, too.
"You come to Chicago and Wrigley Field, even as a Marlin I enjoyed coming here a long time ago. So it's fun to get out and play against these guys on their field in their stadium."
Soriano's homer was the 379th of his career, tying him with Orlando Cepeda and Tony Perez for 64th on the all-time list.
But it was the Pirates doing almost all the hitting, as they gave Burnett some rare run support: They had scored three runs or less in six of his previous seven starts.
"The last couple times we haven't given him many runs," Alvarez said. "I don't care how good you are, it's always nice to pitch with some runs behind you."
The Pirates tagged Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija (3-7) for eight hits, including Alvarez's two-run home run in the fourth, his team-high 13th of the year. The right-hander struck out seven and walked one in six innings.
"The splitter was up all day today," Samardzija said. "(They) got a couple of hits off of it. Alvarez's home run was off of it.
"They took advantage of (the splitter) up in the zone and they made me pay."
Martin's homer, a two-run shot in the eighth off reliever Hector Rondon , was the 100th of his career.
The Pirates jumped on Samardzija for a run in the second on Garrett Jones ' double and Alvarez's one-out RBI single. Pittsburgh added a run in the third when Starling Marte ended a streak of 14 hitless at-bats with a single, stole second and came in on Travis Snider 's single.
Alvarez homered to right field after Martin led off with a walk in the fourth to increase the Pirates' lead to 4-0.
In the eighth, Martin sent a 3-2 pitch by Rondon into the seats in left for a two-out home run after Andrew McCutchen had drawn a walk.
Pittsburgh beat Chicago for the fifth straight time and handed the Cubs their fifth loss in the last six games overall.
"It's hard to see those guys play the way they play and we cannot play like that," Soriano said. "Especially, we got shut out yesterday. I don't want it to happen today again. At least he didn't throw a shutout."
NOTES: Pittsburgh RHP Jeff Karstens , on the disabled list since March 26 with a shoulder inflammation, had surgery Friday on his right rotator cuff and labrum in Los Angeles. He'll be able to begin a rehab process in 10 to 12 weeks. ... The Pirates placed RHP Jared Hughes on the 15-day disabled list with a throwing shoulder inflammation and recalled OF Alex Presley from Triple-A Indianapolis. Presley had been sent down Monday when Hughes was called up. Hughes has returned to Pittsburgh for more evaluation. ... Cubs pitcher Kyuji Fuikawa, who went on the 60-day DL May 27 with a muscular strain in his right forearm, is expected to have surgery Tuesday after an exam on Monday. ... Cubs SS Starlin Castro , dropped from second to seventh in the order on June 4, continued to struggle. He went 0 for 3 and is mired in a 3-for-34 slump. ... Sunday's pitchers: Pittsburgh left-hander Jeff Locke (5-1, 2.45) vs. Chicago right-hander Edwin Jackson (1-8, 6.29).