Baseball today is full of a budding generation of young stars. Looking at birthdays now, even those of us in our twenties feel the bulge of our eyeballs as current hurlers are born in years further and further into our adolescence. A quick glance around the NL East reveals the Phillies' division is home to many sparkling youths, none of whom you can look directly in the eye without quickly withering and turning to dust.
A Cole Hamels vs. A.J. Burnett match-up does not exemplify this new world, but it does showcase two of the best pitchers in the National League at this point. Hamels, who in Philadelphia is considered an ace but to anyone who lives in the toxic haze outside of the region, he is merely a No. 2 starter who gets lucky every once in a while (or benefits from that elite outfield defense for which the Phillies are perpetually known).
Burnett, on the other hand, is far more of an anomaly, as a dominant, but unreliable, and aging pitcher, no one could have pegged his presumably final season before retiring would have him so high on the charts. Or perhaps some people did! Perhaps some people haven't watched many of their city's beloved aces melt upon reaching a certain age. Lucky them.
In any case, Hamels and Burnett kept their opposing lineups in check for many innings. Hamels, who is very bad remember, was as stifling as the midday humidity, going seven strong innings, allowing only four hits and one walk with 12 strikeouts and working expertly out of bases loaded trouble in the fourth. Ken Giles took over for Hamels in the eighth and pitched a clean, confident inning with two K's and zero screaming matches with most of the Phillies coaching staff.
Burnett pitched into the ninth, and even though Ben Revere snuck on base due to a dropped throw on a ground ball, stole second as Jeff Francoeur distracted the Pirates with a clutch strikeout, and was subsequently thrown out sliding past third base on a steal attempt. Chase Utley watched from the batter's box, brain fluids boiling, and worked a walk, thanks in part to a fourth ball that left Burnett sweaty and disgruntled. With Ryan Howard batting, Utley then swiped second while the Pirates couldn't have cared less, the RISP. But Burnett's shutout stayed intact after Howard grounded out to first.
It was like that all day for the Phillies; all season, really, if you've been watching. When the Phillies did connect - Howard got a hold of one and Galvis snared a potential extra bases liner - the Pirates defense simply smothered them (Andrew McCutchen robbed Howard and Sean Rodriguez made a diving catch to silence Galvis).
The Bucs quickly got men on in the bottom of the ninth when Maikel Franco couldn't handle a tough grounder and an intentional walk. With runners at first and second, Luis Garcia seemed to be slidering his way out of trouble, and did, much to the chagrin of Clint Hurdle, who was ejected disputing Garcia's first strike on Pedro Alvarez with two outs.
The Phillies offense flailed for two additional innings before the Pirates managed to push a run across in the 11th, thanks in part to a Freddy Galvis throwing error that extended the inning with two outs and allowed for Josh Harrison to single in Neil Walker. Sweep complete!
It was the Phillies sixth straight loss, giving them an 0-6 record on the current road trip and their ninth loss in their last 10 games. Neat!