PITTSBURGH — A.J. Burnett was 24 when he threw his only no-hitter. Now in his 15th major league season, the 36-year-old Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander knows his career is winding down. He would love to add a second one before retiring.
“Absolutely,” Burnett said. “My goal every time out is to throw a no-hitter. I know they are major league hitters that I’m facing and I respect them, but my job is not to give up hits. You should go to the mound with that mindset.”
Burnett made a pretty good attempt as the Pirates beat the St. Louis Cardinals 5-0 Wednesday night, taking a no-hit bid into the seventh inning before Carlos Beltran doubled to right-center with two outs. That was the lone hit given up by Burnett in seven dominant innings.
“I looked at Carlos when he got to second base and said, ‘Couldn’t you have had one more swing-and-miss against me?’” Burnett said with a smile.
Beltran said he hit a hanging slider.
“He threw me a slider the pitch before and I thought he would come back with it,” Beltran said. “He left it out over the plate. It was about the only bad pitch he made. He was very good.”
The only other runner Burnett (1-2) allowed came when he hit Daniel Descalso with a 2-2 pitch with one out in the sixth to end his chances for a perfect game. Burnett struck out eight to raise his season total to 35 in 24 innings.
His latest bid for a no-hitter came on a night when he recorded the 2,000th strikeout of his career. Burnett reached the milestone when he caught Beltran looking to lead off the second.
“If anybody doesn’t appreciate what a milestone 2,000 strikeouts is, then they’ve never played the game or they have no respect for the game,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. “You’re not going to be around long enough to have 2,000 strikeouts unless you have good stuff and also know how to pitch. It’s a great accomplishment.”
The game was stopped briefly when Pirates infielders and catcher Russell Martin went to the mound to shake Burnett’s hand. Burnett also gave a quick wave to the crowd of 9,570, which gave him a standing ovation.
“(Second baseman) Neil Walker had the idea for everyone to come shake my hand and it was really nice,” Burnett said. “I feel so much love from these guys and I’m glad I could do it at home where these fans have been so great to me these last two years.”
Mark Melancon, Tony Watson and Jason Grilli completed the one-hitter. It was the Pirates’ second shutout of the season and the second time the Cardinals had been blanked.
Burnett’s no-hitter came on May 12, 2001, for the Florida Marlins in San Diego. That game was also notable for his nine walks. Burnett did not issue a free pass Wednesday night.
“That was an ugly no-hitter,” Burnett said. “I want to throw a pretty one.”
St. Louis rookie Shelby Miller (2-1) pitched well despite taking his first loss in four career decisions. He gave up two runs and six hits in six innings with one walk and six strikeouts.
Andrew McCutchen and Walker each had two of Pittsburgh’s 11 hits.
The Pirates struck quickly against Miller as Starling Marte led off the first inning with a triple high off the right-field wall, extending his hitting streak to 10 games. Travis Snider singled Marte home.
However, after Walker hit a two-out double in the first inning, Miller retired 15 consecutive batters.
McCutchen ended that streak with a two-out infield single in the sixth and scored on a single by Walker to make it 2-0.
“We had a chance to do some damage early but Miller got out of that first inning, then he shut us down,” Hurdle said. “He was very impressive.”
Pittsburgh scored an unearned run in the seventh off Trevor Rosenthal on third baseman’s David Freese’s two-out throwing error on a grounder by Marte. The Pirates added two more in the eighth against Randy Choate as pinch-hitter Gaby Sanchez doubled in a run and scored on Pedro Alvarez’s single.
“It was a well-pitched game on both sides,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “Unfortunately for us, their guy was just a little bit better.”
NOTES: Pittsburgh LHP Wandy Rodriguez will start Friday night against Atlanta after completing a 25-pitch bullpen session. Bothered by a strained left hamstring, Rodriguez has not pitched since April 8 when he left a game at Arizona in the third inning. ... The Pirates begin a four-game home series tonight with Atlanta as LHP Jeff Locke (1-1, 4.09) pitches against RHP Julio Teheran (0-0, 7.36).