PITTSBURGH — St. Louis scout Jim Leyland kept repeating his message to manager Tony La Russa before the Cardinals faced Pittsburgh rookie Sean Burnett: Don’t be deceived by the fact he has yet to win in the majors.
Burnett, a left-hander, backed up the former Pirates manager’s scouting report by pitching six shutout innings for his first major league victory, and Tike Redman drove in two runs to lead Pittsburgh past the division-leading Cardinals 3-0 on Tuesday night.
“My chief scout told me at least a dozen times, ‘I really like that guy, I really like that guy,’” La Russa said. “I knew as soon as he said it once he was good. He is a very good-looking pitcher.”
Burnett (1-2) got little run support in his first three starts, only to outpitch Chris Carpenter (8-3) as the last-place Pirates beat the Cardinals for the second straight night. Previously, St. Louis had won 14 of 16 in Pittsburgh.
The Pirates won their fourth in a row, matching a season high set May 13-16. That was before a dismal stretch that saw them drop 21 of 25 and lose 11 1/2 games in the standings to St. Louis.
Burnett, 21, settled in after working out of jams in each of the first two innings. He stranded runners on first and second by striking out Reggie Sanders in the first, then retired three in a row after allowing leadoff singles to John Mabry and So Taguchi in the second.
“It’s like we’ve said, this kid’s makeup is off the charts,” Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He’s not fazed by big situations and he proved it again.”
He has a 3.09 ERA.
The Cardinals stranded seven runners during Burnett’s six innings and nine overall and have scored one run in the three-game series, which started with a 2-1 loss Monday to Kris Benson and reliever Jose Mesa. They had won five in a row coming into the series.
“I felt we were going to be able to get to him, but he kept bearing down and kept us off balance with his changeup,” Sanders said. “There were great opportunities for us, and we’ve been capitalizing on those situations, but tonight it just didn’t happen.”
Burnett left after throwing 101 pitches, striking out four and walking two. He has as many victories in the majors as he did at Triple-A Nashville, where he was 1-5 with five consecutive losses.
Burnett was more nervous after leaving the game than he was while pitching, repeatedly pacing the clubhouse floor until pitcher Kip Wells finally told him to relax.
“He said I was going to wear out the rubber (in his sandals),” Burnett said.
“It’s great to get my first win and it’s certainly special to beat a good team like them. I was a little antsy, a little jumpy (at the start), but as I started getting my sinker down, I got in a groove.”
Mark Corey followed Burnett with a scoreless seventh, getting Edgar Renteria on a long fly ball to left with Tony Womack on second, and Salomon Torres pitched the eighth. Mesa, who got the victory Monday with a scoreless ninth, finished up again for his 18th save in as many chances.
Burnett had pitched with a lead only once before, but the Pirates gave him a 1-0 lead in the second when Carpenter walked Jason Bay with one out, Randall Simon singled and Bay came home on Redman’s force-play grounder.
The Cardinals had won 10 of Carpenter’s last 11 starts and 11 of his 14 starts overall, but Carpenter gave up two more runs in the sixth before leaving.
Rob Mackowiak singled, Craig Wilson doubled, and Simon was intentionally walked to load the bases.
Redman singled into left field against a drawn-in infield, and Wilson scored on Bobby Hill’s grounder to the mound.