Ever since A.J. Burnett found out he had a hernia, he’s been at his best.
Burnett gave Philadelphia a great finish to a good road trip, allowing five hits in eight sharp innings for his first win of the season, 2-0 over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Burnett has an 0.83 ERA in his three outings since he found out he had an inguinal hernia and decided he would forego surgery until the end of the season.
“He said that’s keeping him humble,” catcher Wil Nieves said. “Instead of trying to throw hard, he’s throwing nice and easy.”
“Hopefully, he’ll have the hernia all year,” he kidded.
Nieves, the backup to regular catcher Carlos Ruiz, also was Burnett’s catcher two starts earlier when he gave up three hits in seven scoreless innings against Atlanta. That’s 15 straight scoreless innings for the pairing.
“Man, he’s fun to throw to,” Burnett said. “He has that energy about him that fires you up and locks you in.”
Burnett (1-1) struck out seven with no walks and hit a batter.
“When I got behind, I was able to make the pitch, whether it was a sinker or a curve ball,” he said. “I mixed in one changeup today. ... When I’m on, I’m a two-pitch pitcher.”
Burnett has long since deserved a win. He allowed eight runs in his one bad start, five combined in the other five.
“A.J. just doesn’t get flustered with any men on base or anything,” Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said, “just pitches and battles and competes, maybe takes it up a notch, makes quality pitches.”
After beginning its 10-game trip with two messy losses in Colorado, Philadelphia won six of eight to return home a game above .500 (13-12).
“A good ‘W,’” Burnett said, “a happy flight.”
Jonathan Papelbon pitched the ninth for his eighth save and second in as many games, closing out Saturday night’s 6-5 victory, a game that the Phillies won after trailing 5-0.
On Sunday, chase Utley hit an RBI single in the first, then doubled and scored in the sixth while raising his batting average to .360. The Phillies took two of three from Arizona.
Brandon McCarthy (0-5) struck out a career-high 12 in seven innings. He gave up both runs and seven hits.
“He threw a heck of a game,” Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said. “It was his best game this year by far.”
Still, the Diamondbacks fell to 3-10 at Chase Field this season.
Ben Revere opened the game with a single, stole second and scored when Utley’s fly ball fell between left fielder Cody Ross and center fielder A.J. Pollock for a single.
Gibson said Ross got a bad break on the ball, thinking it was going deeper.
McCarthy shut the Phillies down the next four innings. In the sixth, Utley led off with a double and scored when shortstop Chris Owings made a nice stop on Marlon Byrd’s grounder but threw wildly to third.
Gibson blamed third baseman Martin Prado, saying he didn’t get to the bag.
The Diamondbacks had their chances.
Pollock and Owings opened the fourth with singles, but McCarthy bunted into a force play. Martin Prado bounced into a double play that ended the innings.