PITTSBURGH • In his previous start, prized Cardinals rookie Shelby Miller allowed one hit and struck out eight, walking none and hitting one while pitching seven scoreless innings. Now he knows what the other side feels like.
While Miller allowed a hit to the first Milwaukee batter he faced last week in St. Louis, Pittsburgh righthander A.J. Burnett didn’t give up a hit until the next-to-last batter he faced Wednesday night.
The Cardinals’ Carlos Beltran doubled to right center with two out in the seventh to end the no-hit bid by the 36-year-old Burnett, who had one nearly 12 years ago while pitching for Florida.
Burnett left after the inning for a pinch hitter, having allowed one hit and fanning eight in seven innings. He walked none and hit one, just as Miller did last week.
The only other runner to reach base against Burnett was Daniel Descalso, who was hit in the foot by a pitch with one out in the sixth inning after Burnett had set down the first 16 Cardinals.
Miller was good this time, too, but the Pirates nicked him for a run in the first, another in the sixth and, with the help of some flawed Cardinals defense and some spotty Cardinals relief pitching, proceeded to a 5-0 victory before a modest, but amused, turnout of 9,570 at PNC Park.
Beltran’s hit, which prevented Burnett from making history, was the Cardinals’ only hit of the game. Earlier, Beltran had been a subordinate part of history as he became the 2,000th strikeout of Burnett’s career.
After Beltran got his hit, Burnett said to Beltran, “Hey, couldn’t you just have had one more swing and a miss?”
“He looked at me and smiled and said, ‘Congratulations on the 2,000th strikeout. You got me there.’’’
Burnett had walked nine in his first no-hitter but, having had one, he said, “I hope to throw a no-hitter every time out. I really want another one. The one I had was ugly. Nine walks. I want a pretty one before I retire.”
Burnett said the competition against Miller and the Cardinals’ deep lineup added fuel to his fire.
“The way Miller was pitching and with that lineup they have, it pumps you up,” said Burnett. “You’d better be on top of your game to win a game like this.”
Second baseman Neil Walker made a diving stop to his right to rob Matt Carpenter in the fourth and right fielder Travis Snider tumbled to take a hit from Yadier Molina in the fifth. Burnett, just before Beltran’s hit, slid to make the play on Matt Holliday’s tap and, though he bobbled the ball, he nipped Holliday at first.
“Normally, pitchers don’t make those plays,” said Beltran.
Otherwise, Burnett was in total command with his fastball and slider, rarely having to go to his third pitch, his changeup.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said, “The breaking ball was big and the fastball was exceptional. The combination of the two kind of had their guys in between all night.”
Beltran, 10 for 33 (.300) in his career against Burnett, said he hit a slider for the double. “That was one of the few that he threw in the middle of the strike zone,” said Beltran. “He threw me one for a strike and the second one was more hittable than the first one.”
As hitter after hitter was retired, center fielder Andrew McCutchen said, “(Burnett) made it look so easy I thought I was out there in a lawn chair watching it all.”
Miller, who threw four no-hitters in high school in Texas, including three in a row in one state tournament, said, “(Burnett) threw a really good game. You just tip your cap to him tonight.”
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, asked if he thought Burnett had no-hit stuff, “I never try and give too much credit to any of them, especially with our lineup. And then you’re seeing some balls hit pretty hard and you figure somebody’s going to find a spot.
“We went in with a game plan, but he made tough pitches when he had to.”
When Miller came out, the Cardinals were down only 2-0, but third baseman David Freese’s error gave the Pirates an unearned run in the seventh and Trevor Rosenthal and Randy Choate each surrendered a run in a two-run eighth.
The Cardinals also survived a lazy toss back to the infield by left fielder Holliday when an advancing runner overslid the bag at second.
“In every loss like this, there are a lot of little things that help contribute to it,” Matheny said. “We’d been playing pretty well defensively, and that’s something we need to make sure we keep as a top priority.”
Miller, who retired the final 17 men he faced last Friday, allowed a triple to Starling Marte and a bloop single to Snider with the infield in to account for the first run in the first inning.
Miller allowed four of his six-hit allotment in that inning.
“I just made some mistakes and they capitalized on them,” he said. “The rest of the game I felt good.”
The other Pirates run off Miller came after a shattered-bat single by McCutchen with two out in the sixth, shortstop Descalso’s throwing error on the play, a walk and Walker’s single to center.
But, overall, Miller pitched strongly.
“He was good,” said Molina.