The last two times the Pittsburgh Pirates lost two in a row, they had A.J. Burnett to help halt the sapling streaks. On Saturday night at PNC Park, Jason Marquis and the San Diego Padres neutralized the Bucs’ ace and continued their unlikely dominance in western Pennsylvania.
Marquis, a 12-year veteran of eight MLB teams, earned his fifth career shutout in the Padres’ 5-0 blanking of the Pirates. San Diego (51-64) has now won five straight while the Bucs (63-50) fell to 2-4 on their current 11-game homestand with their third defeat in succession. The Padres have now won 11 straight games in Pittsburgh.
The result was unlikely for a few reasons. For one, the Pirates had one of the best home records in baseball at 35-19, including 10-0 in games started by Burnett. Secondly, Marquis has been a below replacement-level pitcher for the last three seasons. Also, the Pirates had not lost three straight since June 24-26.
But it all didn’t matter in front of the second sellout crowd of the weekend. Marquis struck out just four Pirates, but he carried a no-hitter into the seventh and walked only one batter. One night after roaring back from six runs down to top Pittsburgh 9-8, the Padres led from the start and never appeared threatened.
Only Travis Snider and Pedro Alvarez picked up hits for the Pirates, who also committed a pair of errors. Alvarez also drew the only walk of the evening ceded by Marquis. Pittsburgh has been held off the scoreboard twice in the last eight days, as the Reds turned the trick last Friday.
Speaking of the Reds, they won Saturday in Chicago to move 4 1/2 games ahead of the Pirates for first in the National League Central. The Cardinals also crept within 1 1/2 games of the Bucs for the NL’s second wild card position with a win over the Phillies.
The Padres put a down payment on the win when Chase Headley ripped his third home run of the weekend in the first inning. Headley’s dinger to right-center, his 18th, marked the fifth straight game in which the Pirates have allowed a run in the first.
Everth Cabrera led off the third with a triple to center and was driven in immediately by Headley’s groundout, growing the San Diego lead to 2-0. Cameron Maybin increased the advantage to three runs in the fourth when he bounced a single into left, pushing home Will Venable, who had reached on a two-base error by Pirates first baseman Garrett Jones.
Despite a couple lapses early (and some sketchy defense), Burnett was using his knuckle-curveball to brilliant swing-and-miss effect. He struck out the side in three separate innings and had a season-high 10 strikeouts through five frames.
Marquis’ first five innings were much less flashy than Burnett’s, but the San Diego righty was more effective and efficient. Only Alvarez’ second-inning walk separated Marquis from a perfect game through five, and he needed only 58 pitches to get that far.
Burnett’s night ended with two outs in the sixth, after Venable cracked a homer to center to start the inning and Headley drew a bases-loaded walk to put the Padres ahead 5-0. Jared Hughes retired Carlos Quentin to escape the jam, but the five runs charged against Burnett were the most in seven starts for the first-year Bucco.
Marquis threw a one-two-three sixth, but Snider got the better of him to start the seventh – barely. Padres second baseman Alexi Amarista was unable to make what would’ve been an above-average play to retire Snider, and it was ruled an infield single. Snider advanced to second on a groundout but Neil Walker lined out sharply to centerfielder Maybin to keep Marquis’ shutout alive.
Alvarez gave the Pirates their third and final baserunner with a long single off the Clemente Wall in the eighth.
Notes: The Padres, founded in 1967, have never thrown a no-hitter…Hughes ended up throwing 2 1/3 scoreless innings after surrendering six runs in his last three appearances…Jason Grilli pitched a perfect ninth…Attendance was 39,485 for Skyblast featuring the classic rock band Styx.