A.J. Burnett sat on a black leather sofa in the Pirates clubhouse Tuesday night, processing what had just happened.

He understood the basics. His attempt to win his ninth start in a row had not gone well. He did not have his best stuff, and the Astros had dropped lightly hit balls in all the right places. He might have just cost his team a shot at first place in the National League Central, which stung him.

Past all of that, his night on the mound had been pretty hard to fathom -- especially the end of it. "I'm like, 'This crowd just cheered me off the field,' " Burnett said. "I gave up 12 hits and six runs. I'm like, 'That's crazy.' "

In almost 14 major-league seasons, in 323 starts spanning 2,047 innings, Burnett had never experienced such a thing. Unconditional love? From fans of a professional baseball franchise? He'd spent most of the last three years being booed out of Yankee Stadium and then having to answer for it to an unforgiving and unrelenting press corps. He was the $82.5 million man, signed by the Yankees for five seasons, and the perfection demanded was certainly not going to be met by a perfectionist like Burnett.