(Sports Network) - Pittsburgh ace A.J. Burnett aims for a fourth defeat of
Cincinnati this season tonight when the Pirates visit the Reds in the finale
of a three-game series at Great American Ball Park.
A 35-year-old from Arkansas, Burnett was 2-3 against the Reds entering 2012,
but racked up career wins three, four and five against them on May 30, June 5
and Aug. 5, respectively.
He went seven innings and allowed an unearned run in a 2-1 win at Pittsburgh
in the initial game, then traveled to Cincinnati and tossed five innings of
three-run ball in an 8-4 victory on June 5.
The third win of the season came after 8 2/3 innings of three-hit, two-run
ball in a 6-2 victory - again in Cincinnati - that improved Burnett to 14-3
for the year and dropped his earned run average to 3.19.
He's gone on to win just once in six starts since while tumbling to 15-6
overall and watching the ERA climb to 3.68 as the Pirates have plummeted out
of the National League Central Division race, where they now stand in third
place - 13 games behind the first-place Reds.
Pittsburgh is still in the hunt for the NL's second available wild card
position, which they now trail by 2 1/2 games behind defending World Series
champion St. Louis.
Cincinnati opposes him with Texas-born righty Homer Bailey, who's dropped two
straight decisions to Burnett.
Bailey came into 2012 with five wins in five career decisions against the
Pirates, then improved to 6-0 with a complete-game 8-1 victory at Pittsburgh
on May 29.
He dropped the aforementioned 8-4 verdict to Burnett in June 5 after being
tagged for six runs in three innings, then allowed four runs on nine hits in 4
2/3 innings in the 6-2 loss on Aug. 5.
Like Burnett, Bailey has won just once in six starts since, falling to 10-9 on
the season after a 9-6 start, though he's given up just three runs in his last
14 2/3 innings in a pair of no-decisions against Houston - both Cincinnati
Bailey is 3-7 in 15 home starts with a 5.36 ERA.
On Tuesday, Brandon Phillips blasted a solo homer and hit a run-scoring double
as the Reds took another step closer to a division crown with a 5-3 win over
the reeling Pirates.
Mike Leake (8-9) gave up nine hits and three runs, including two home runs, in
seven innings for the NL Central-leading Reds. The right-hander helped his own
cause with two singles and scored during a three-run second inning.
Kevin Correia (10-9) allowed four runs - three earned - on seven hits and
walked three over six frames for Pittsburgh, which has lost five straight and
nine of its last 11 games.
"They had some sideways damage done on him, but he gave us an opportunity to
win the game," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
The Pirates, who also have dropped eight in a row on the road, put their first
two batters on base in the seventh inning as Jose Tabata walked and Michael
McKenry singled to center field. After pinch-hitter Jeff Clement grounded into
a double play, another pinch-hitter, Gaby Sanchez, hit a line-drive home run
to left field, trimming Pittsburgh's deficit to 4-3.
Scott Rolen, though, responded with a solo shot in the eighth for Cincinnati.
Jonathan Broxton worked the ninth for his first save as a Red.
The teams split their first 12 games of 2012, a season after the Pirates won
10 of 15 meetings.
The Sports Network