View Count: 289 |  Publish Date: April 06, 2014
Cubs pounce on Burnett and rout Phillies
Matt Gelb, Inquirer Staff Writer Posted: Monday, April 7, 2014, 3:01 AM
CHICAGO - Hidden in the 30 starts made by A.J. Burnett last season that produced a career-low 3.30 ERA with Pittsburgh and a $16 million contract from the Phillies for 2014 was a trend not lost on Cubs manager Rick Renteria. He stuffed his Sunday lineup with seven lefthanded hitters, and the advantage manifested before Burnett completed an inning of an 8-3 Phillies loss.
Chicago blasted Burnett for four first-inning runs to avoid christening Wrigley Fields 100th season with an opponents sweep. The quick hole was too deep for a Phillies team that headed for home with a .500 record.
Lefties have always hit Burnett better. The disparity was greater in 2013; lefties posted a .735 OPS, which was 188 points better than how righties fared. He walked 11.3 percent of the lefties he saw as opposed to 5.4 righties.
The same results appeared on Sunday.
The first three Cubs reached against Burnett. Emilio Bonifacio walked, Ryan Kalish tripled to center and Anthony Rizzo walked. Nate Schierholtz skied a sacrifice fly to deep left. Luis Valbuena walked. Starlin Castro - the first righty in the lineup - doubled to left-center, and that forced pitching coach Bob McClure to console Burnett just six batters into his outing.
Burnett staggered for 30 pitches, just 13 of which were strikes, in the first inning. Cubs hitters made loud contact with almost every swing. Burnetts sinker and curve were elevated.
His clunker snapped a strong four-game stretch for Phillies starters after Cliff Lees shaky opening start. They combined to permit four runs in 251/3 innings. The Phillies lost twice in that span because their bullpen could not preserve late leads.
Burnett lingered until his pitch count topped 100. He steadied after the first inning only for the game to unravel in the sixth. Ben Revere dropped a liner hit to center. Burnett plunked a batter. Jimmy Rollins misplayed an infield hit. Kalish smoked a two-run double to center. That, finally, forced Ryne Sandberg to summon his bullpen.
The Phillies were not blessed with luck, and it was no more evident than in the fifth inning. Revere and Rollins each singled and stole a base. Chase Utley tapped one to shortstop, which scored Revere but eliminated Utley in a bang-bang play at first.
That prompted the first-ever Phillies replay challenge. Sandberg engaged first-base umpire C.B. Bucknor in a conversation but focused his attention on the dugout, which eventually signaled for Sandberg to request a review. The call was upheld two minutes later.
Ryan Howard, the next batter, scorched a ball into short right field. Bonifacio, the Cubs second baseman, played a shallow outfield position on the shift and snared the liner with a leap. He flipped to second for the inning-ending double play.
Howard hit the ball to the warning track in each of his first two at-bats. He had nothing to show for his day. Neither did Burnett, who allowed Chicagos lefthanded hitters to reach base 11 times in 23 plate appearances.
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