Strikeout records are great but Pirates right-hander A.J. Burnett has bigger goals this season. “I'll be gratified when we win it all” Burnett said. “That's where my sights are.” That's a mission for another day — the playoffs don't start until a week from Tuesday. For now Burnett will take satisfaction from the record-setting 12 strikeouts he amassed Saturday in a 4-2 victory against the Reds. The win moved the Pirates a game ahead of the Reds for the top National League wild-card spot and kept them two games behind the Cardinals in the NL Central title chase. The Pirates' magic number to clinch a postseason berth is three. “I just want to go out and win for these guys” Burnett said. “I was focused and locked in. It was probably the best command I've have of my (curveball) in a long time and I mixed fastballs in when I needed them.” To start the sixth inning Burnett got Joey Votto to flail at a 2-2 curveball. It was Burnett's 200th strikeout of the season making him the first Pirates pitcher to reach that mark since Oliver Perez had 239 in 2004. An inning earlier Burnett notched his 198th strikeout which moved him past Marcus Baldwin (197 strikeouts in 1891) to set the single-season franchise record for a right-hander. The only other Pirates to surpass 200 strikeouts are lefties Perez and Bob Veale (who did it four times). This is Burnett's third 200-strikeout season in 15 years in the majors. He fanned a career-high 231 batters in 2008 while with the Blue Jays. “We're a better team with him than we were before he got here” left-hander Jeff Locke said. “He boosts the confidence in the clubhouse. He's played a long time. He's won a World Series. He's done a lot of things that everyone around here wants to achieve. He's a role model.” Russell Martin's two-run homer tied the game in the second inning. After that Burnett (9-11) and Reds starter Homer Bailey put up zeros until the bottom of the sixth when the Pirates scored twice to break a 2-2 tie.
Behind Burnett, Pirates strike back against Reds
Pittsburgh Tribune Review | Sep 22