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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A.J. Burnett looks like a different pitcher compared to the one who pitched in Philadelphia last season.
Burnett tossed seven strong innings against his former team, Andrew McCutchen homered and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Phillies 7-2 on Tuesday night for their fourth consecutive win.
Burnett (2-1) gave up two runs, one earned, and six hits while lowering his ERA to 1.60. The 38-year-old right-hander led the majors with 18 losses for the Phillies last year, and then declined a $12.75 million player option to pitch in Philadelphia this season. He signed an $8.5 million, one-year deal with the Pirates instead.
"He's throwing strikes," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. "No innings have gotten away from him. He mixes his pitches. And it's become very effective. He's worked hard to become a master craftsman."
The return to Pittsburgh, where he played the 2012 and 2013 seasons, has worked out well so far. He has allowed two runs or fewer in all seven outings this season. And, unlike other games, he got plenty of run support this time.
"We've got a lot of pro hitters here, guys that really know how to handle themselves at bat," Burnett said. "All I want to do is keep my team in the game. I'm trying to keep the ball down and counting on the defense."
Josh Harrison broke out of a 2-for-27 slump that landed him on the bench Monday, connecting for a three-run shot against Sean O'Sullivan (0-2) in the fourth.
O'Sullivan, who hadn't started since April 17 due to knee tendinitis, gave up three runs and five hits in five innings. Since his last victory on May 12, 2011, O'Sullivan is 0-9 with a 7.19 ERA in 18 games (13 starts).
Francisco Cervelli had a pair of doubles and Gregory Polanco had a two-run double for the Pirates, who have won five of six overall and eight of nine against the Phillies.
Philadelphia slumped to its 11th loss in 14 games while lowering its major league-worst record to 11-23, which is the club's worst start since 1971.
"We get close and we're not able to get over the hump," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said.
Harrison's long ball was a good sign for the Pirates, who rewarded his All-Star 2014 season in which he was second in the NL in batting (.315) with a four-year, $27.3 million contract in early April. But he has struggled since the raise, batting .173 entering Tuesday.
"It's nice to see him step forward," Hurdle said. "We'll give him some more at-bats."
The Phillies got a pair of runs back in the sixth on Ben Revere's RBI double and Chase Utley's run-scoring groundout.
But the Pirates broke the game open in the seventh with four runs off Luis Garcia thanks to McCutchen's two-run shot to deep left-center and Polanco's double.
"He couldn't find the strike zone tonight," Sandberg said.
McCutchen continued his hot hitting against Philadelphia, improving to 21 for 48 (.438) with three homers and 11 RBIs in his last 13 games against the Phillies.
Philadelphia has scored two runs or less in 15 of its losses.
O'Sullivan snared Burnett's soft line drive with his pitching hand in the second inning.
"It was just reaction," he said. "I wasn't going to be able to get my glove to it, so I stuck my hand out there."
Pirates: LF Starling Marte was hit on the left arm by a pitch in the fourth but remained in the game.
Phillies: Revere landed hard while sliding headfirst into third base in the sixth inning. It was the second headfirst slide around the bases, also pulling the same maneuver into second before bouncing up and hustling to third on Polanco's throwing error. He needed a few minutes to gather himself and then scored on Utley's groundout.
Pirates: The Pirates will see a left-handed starter for just the fourth time this season when they take on Cole Hamels (2-3, 3.68 ERA) on Wednesday night. No team in the majors has faced fewer lefties than Pittsburgh. LHP Francisco Liriano (1-2, 2.79 ERA) goes for the Pirates. He fanned 12 in eight scoreless innings last Sept. 11 in his only career outing against Philadelphia.
Phillies: Hamels is 2-2 with a 2.76 ERA in seven career starts against the Pirates.