ST. LOUIS — During a conference call the other day, I made a point of asking John Smoltz and Cal Ripken Jr. whether they thought A.J. Burnett and James McDonald were legit All-Star candidates. Neither former standout hesitated to endore Burnett, whose comeback is one of the best stories in baseball this summer. “I think A.J., after all that he’d been through in New York, has gone to Pittsburgh and gotten back to some of the expectations we had for him earlier in his career,” Smoltz said.
Smoltz and Ripken both had good things to say about McDonald, but it was clear neither knew much about him. “I haven’t seen James McDonald pitch a whole lot,” Ripken confessed. “Looking at his overall numbers from a distance, he’s somebody who doesn’t give up walks and doesn’t give up many hits. He’s very deserving of pitching in the All-Star Game, just based on his stats alone.” Smoltz offered this: “I’ve been so impressed by James McDonald and by the progress he’s made in a short time.” But he did not offer any specifics.
I’m not saying McDonald won’t get an All-Star bid. Certainly, both he and Burnett are deserving. However, the lack of national recognition could hurt McDonald’s chances when manager Tony LaRussa fills out his roster.
»»» Saturday’s game will start at 2:15 p.m. ET. There was no truth to rumors that it would be changed due to the heat wave. As I type this at 6 pm ET, the Cards are taking BP and the temp on the field is 102 degrees.
»»» Burnett has won each of his past eight starts, allowing 13 runs over 50 innings. Only two other pitchers in major league history have won eight straight starts while tossing 50 or fewer innings. Jeremy Bonderman threw 49 innings in 2007 for the Tigers and Barry Zito threw 50 innings during his eight-game run in 2001 for the A’s.
»»» The Pirates will offer up to four free tickets to active duty personnel and veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces for Wednesday’s game against the Astros. Tickets will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. To claim tickets, bring a military ID to the ticket office at PNC Park from now until Tuesday. On game day, a special military ticket booth on Federal Street will open at 11:30 a.m.
Game 76: Pirates @ Cardinals 8:05 p.m. ET
Pirates (40-35): 1. Drew Sutton lf, 2. Jose Tabata rf, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Garrett Jones rf, 5. Neil Walker 2b, 6. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 7. Rod Barajas c, 8. Clint Barmes ss, 9. Kevin Correia rhp (3-6, 4.03)
Cardinals (40-36): 1. Rafael Furcal ss, 2. Jon Jay cf, 3. Matt Holliday lf, 4. Carlos Beltran rf, 5. Allen Craig 1b, 6. Yadier Molina c, 7. David Freese 3b, 8. Daniel Descalso 2b, 9. Adam Wainwright rhp (6-7, 4.32)