By Sam Bush
Wow. What a difference a start makes!
A. J. Burnett allowed one run, three hits and one walk and struck out 12 in seven innings as the Phillies beat the NL East-leading Washington Nationals 3-2.
Burnett hasn’t had many starts like that lately. He went 0-5 with a 7.52 ERA in his previous five starts, 0-6 with a 7.41 ERA in seven starts since the All-Star break and 4-13 with a 5.23 ERA in 20 starts since May 3.
“It’s the first time I felt like me in a long time,” Burnett said. “I wish I could have found that little glitch about a month, two months ago.”
Burnett, who said he fixed a mechanical flaw in his delivery, said following his last start last week that he would “probably not” pitch next season, which has been a topic of conversation recently because the Phillies have serious starting-pitching issues heading into 2015 and Burnett has a hefty player option. If he was pitching well, the option might not be such a big deal, but he hasn’t been for much of the season.
The Phillies have to decide if they want to pick up their half of a $15 million mutual option. It is a near certainty they will decline. Burnett has about two more days to decide if he wants to pick up his option, which currently is worth $10 million. It jumps to $11.75 million after his 30th start and $12.75 million after his 32nd start.
Burnett made his 28th start Monday. He is on pace for 34.
Burnett found himself in a similar position last season with the Pirates. He indicated he would retire if the Pirates did not re-sign him. But he said as spring training approached he still had a desire to pitch. He ultimately signed a one-year, $16 million deal with the Phillies.
“I have some options next year, of course,” said Burnett, who had his two sons in the clubhouse after the game. “But I signed a one-year deal for a reason. Those little rug rats you saw running around here and Karen, my wife, is a big reason for that. I’ve been away from them for a long time, but minds do change. I was in the same spot last year and my mind changed. We’ll just see how I feel at the end of the season.”
Burnett struck out 10 through five scoreless innings before he gave up a solo home run to Anthony Rendon in the sixth inning to cut the Phillies’ lead to 2-1. Burnett struck out Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche to end the inning. He then bailed out Domonic Brown in the seventh. Brown flat-out missed a ball hit to left-center field, which allowed Ian Desmond to reach second base.
The ball hit Brown’s glove, but it was ruled a double.
“Looked like he got it,” Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. “It went off his glove.”