In two instances last night, Sean Burnett could have avoided what became the lowest moment of his season. Before he walked Brooks Conrad, he induced a check swing that sure looked like strike three. Before Martin Prado drilled a grand slam, the last of three balls he took also could have been ruled a swing, but of course was not.
“They said no swing, so I guess that’s the way it works,” Burnett said. “I guess when it goes your way, you get those. When you’re struggling, they kind of go against you. I’m fighting through these few weeks, and I’m just trying to come out on top.”
That’s how it’s been going for Burnett this season – he feels fine about how he’s pitching, awful about the results. He’s got a 6.46 ERA this season after last night, when he entered with two runners on and one out in the seventh and turned a 5-1 lead into a tie game as Prado homered on the 10th pitch of an epic at-bat.
“I threw the ball great, I felt like,” Burnett said. “I threw some great pitches to Prado, some close ones, some borderline pitches, check-swings. The one slider I threw him was behind him. I don’t know how the hell he got to it. I just kept making pitches. I made one mistake, I think. It cost us four runs.”
Burnett, though, has taken a step back from last season in one meaningful way. Last year, when he posted a 2.14 ERA and became one of the most effective relievers in the league, Burnett struck out 8.9 batters per nine innings, and hitters missed 21.6 percent of the time they swung. This year, Burnett has struck out 4.1 per nine, and hitters are missing 16.7 percent of swings.
“We watch Burnie throw and he’s not getting the results that he’s used to getting,” Manager Jim Riggleman said. “But the ball is coming out of his hand good. He’s throwing good. He’s made some good pitches. He threw the ball fine.”
Last year, Burnett became dominant as he mastered right-handed batters, holding them to a .182 average. They are hitting .353 against him this year. The results, he believes, have belied the quality of his pitches.
“Just luck, I think,” Burnett said. “If I had the answer, I’d tell you. I’ve thrown the ball good, tried to make adjustments. Just seems like nothing’s going my way right now.”