By Jay Cohen
May 17, 2015
Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher A.J. Burnett throws against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning of a baseball game, Sunday, May 17, 2015 in Chicago. (AP Photo/David Banks)
CHICAGO (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Pirates needed another strong outing from their most consistent starter, and A.J. Burnett stepped up again.
Burnett worked around five walks while pitching seven innings in his third consecutive win, and the Pirates stopped a four-game losing streak by cooling off the Chicago Cubs with a 3-0 victory on Sunday.
Burnett (3-1) allowed three hits and struck out seven while handing Jake Arrieta his first loss in six career starts against Pittsburgh. He has allowed two runs or less in each of his eight starts this year after losing 18 games with Philadelphia last season.
''Just trying to keep the ball down. I mean, that's it,'' Burnett said. ''Not get away from my game, try to keep to my strengths, no matter what the guys at the plate are trying to do.''
Burnett's seventh consecutive outing of at least six innings came after Pittsburgh used seven relievers in the series opener on Friday, and then Antonio Bastardo and Arquimedes Caminero for a second straight day in Saturday's 4-1 loss.
''He pitched with the will to win,'' manager Clint Hurdle of Burnett, who lowered his ERA to 1.38. ''Competed very, very well.''
Francisco Cervelli had a hand in Pittsburgh's first two runs after the catcher was shaken up in the fourth when he was hit in the groin by a foul tip. He had an RBI single in the fifth, and then singled and scored on Neil Walker's two-out double in the eighth.
''He's a tough man,'' Hurdle said. ''He's swinging the bat well. We liked him for a lot of reasons. You're seeing them play out right now.''
The Cubs had won six in a row and seven of nine. Rookie third baseman Kris Bryant was pulled after four innings, and the team said he was dehydrated.
''How can I possibly be upset right now?'' manager Joe Maddon said. ''It's impossible. We played well again today.''
Arrieta (4-4) also pitched seven innings, allowing five hits with seven strikeouts and one walk. He began the day with a 4-0 record and a 2.70 ERA in his career against Pittsburgh.
''It's one of those games where you feel like you won,'' he said, ''because you played fairly well, you were just unable to scratch across a couple of runs or get the big hit in that certain situation.''
Chicago's best scoring chance came in the fourth, when it loaded the bases with one out on two walks and Starlin Castro's single. But Jorge Soler looked at a called third strike and Chris Coghlan flew out to the warning track in center field.
Tony Watson escaped a jam in the eighth when Castro lined to center with two on, and Mark Melancon finished the five-hitter for his ninth save in 10 chances. Addison Russell bounced into a fielder's choice with runners on the corners for the final out.
Bryant went 1 for 2 before he was replaced by Jonathan Herrera on a warm, muggy day at Wrigley Field. He hit .455 (10 for 22) with three homers and eight RBIs on Chicago's 6-1 homestand.
Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler made a terrific diving catch to rob Andrew McCutchen of a hit in the first inning. But Walker got Fowler back in the third, making a nice stop on sharp grounder to second before throwing to first for the out.
''When we play defense like we did today and get a pitching performance like A.J. put together, you're going to have a pretty good chance of at least getting (an) opportunity to win,'' Walker said.
Cubs: INF Tommy La Stella left a rehab appearance with Double-A Tennessee in the fifth inning. The Cubs said he aggravated the inflammation on the right side of his rib cage and was traveling back to Chicago for evaluation. ... LHP Tsuyoshi Wada (mild left groin strain) will come off the disabled list to start Wednesday at San Diego.
Pirates: Following an off day on Monday, LHP Francisco Liriano (1-3, 2.96 ERA) gets the ball for the opener of a two-game set against Minnesota. RHP Ricky Nolasco (3-1, 6.38 ERA) goes for the visiting Twins.
Cubs: RHP Jason Hammel (3-1, 3.11 ERA) is scheduled to start of the opener of a six-game road trip on Tuesday night at San Diego. After three against the Padres, the Cubs travel to Arizona to take on the Diamondbacks.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap