SAN DIEGO (AP) — A.J. Burnett threw seven strong innings and the Pittsburgh Pirates had six extra-base hits, including Neil Walker's home run, to beat the Padres 8-1 Tuesday night.
Burnett (6-8) held San Diego to one run and four hits, struck out seven and walked one. He bounced back from two starts in which he allowed 10 earned runs and 16 hits in 10 innings.
The right-hander improved to 2-5 lifetime against the Padres. His only previous victory against San Diego was a no-hitter on May 12, 2001, while with the Marlins. Burnett walked nine that night.
The Pirates opened a two-game lead in the NL Central over St. Louis, which lost 6-3 at Milwaukee.
The Padres have lost 10 of 14 and tied their season high by dropping 17 ½ games behind the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers.
Burnett was backed by some nice defense. Left fielder Jose Tabata made a diving catch of Alexi Amarista's sinking liner in the first. Third baseman Pedro Alvarez made a diving stop of Nick Hundley's grounder in the second and Walker, the second baseman, made a diving stop of Jaff Decker's grounder in the third.
Walker homered into the sandy play area beyond the fence in right-center on a 3-1 pitch from Tyson Ross with one out in the first. It was his eighth. Alvarez reached on second baseman Jedd Gyorko's throwing error and Russell Martin followed with an RBI double to right.
Alvarez tripled in the third to bring in Walker, who was hit by a pitch leading off the inning.
Andrew McCutchen hit a two-run triple in the seventh. His fly ball landed just in front of diving center fielder Alexi Amarista and rolled into the gap. After Alvarez and Russell Martin walked, pinch-hitter Josh Harrison tripled to right-center to clear the bases and cap the five-run inning.
Gyorko homered to left on a 1-2 pitch from Burnett leading off the fourth, his 14th.
The Padres loaded the bases with two outs in the third before Burnett struck out Yonder Alonso.
Ross (3-6) allowed five runs, four earned, on six hits in 6 1-3 innings, struck out six and walked two.
NOTES: The series concludes Wednesday afternoon when Pirates RHP Gerrit Cole (6-5, 3.88 ERA) is scheduled to face RHP Ian Kennedy (4-9, 5.12 ERA). .... Pirates closer Jason Grilli, on the disabled list since July 23 with a strained right forearm, is improving, although there is no timetable for his return. "Jason is moving forward at a very good fashion," manager Clint Hurdle said. ... OF Starling Marte didn't start for the second straight game because of a bruise on his right hand. He was stepped on during a head-first slide against the Arizona Diamondbacks. ... LHP Wandy Rodriguez will throw live batting practice Thursday before the Pirates begin a four-game series in San Francisco. Rodriguez said he continued to feel discomfort in his left arm after a bullpen session Monday. He went on the disabled list June 11 (retroactive to June 6) with left forearm tightness.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.
PHOTO: Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher A.J. Burnett threw during the first inning. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)