Nine games remain in regular season play for the Pirates, and six of them are against the Reds. The next three days represent the newest, “biggest series of the season,” and maybe the greatest at PNC Park.
AJ Burnett couldn’t argue the case of many Pirates fans.
“I think (Cincinnati) turned into our rival you know, the fans obviously look at it that way, and it’s a big series at a big time of the year,” Burnett said. “This weekend and these next 7 days are going to be really, really important to us, so I’m ready for every game, but it’s going to be a big weekend.”
Burnett gave credit to the Pittsburgh fans, saying that they know what’s at stake, and they create a great atmosphere that makes it tough for visiting teams and easier for the Pirates to perform.
“I’m one of the guys that feeds off a crowd, so I enjoy it,” Burnett said. “I think it brings out a lot out of us, and certain guys and certain situations you know, the crowd get’s in it and that’s when the emotion comes out.”
Controlling those emotions in high pressure situations is something the veteran pitcher knows about, and he said having veterans like Russell Martin and Justin Morneau on the team will help the Pirates.
“We’ve got some veterans who have been there, so it’s good for the younger guys to see how we act and see how we react,” Burnett said. “It’s not the end of the world. It’s fun, it’s what we play our whole lives for, so enjoy it.”
Burnett said he has taken notice of the way young guys like Jeff Locke and Gerrit Cole have handled themselves on the mound lately. More notably Cole, who was brought up later in the season and had quite a few impressive starts, including Thursday’s 12-strikeout win over the Padres.
“They want to win, and that’s what makes them special,” Burnett said. “They aren’t intimidated by anybody, they aren’t intimidated by any lineup, they know they are good, they expect to be here, and they compete and they want to win.”
And as far as the Pirates’ center fielder and MVP candidate goes, Burnett said he feels comfortable on the mound knowing that Andrew McCutchen has his back.
“You look at how he goes about his business and what he does for this team, just little things here and there, like how many games has he driven in a run or how many games has he been the run that crosses the 1-run game, things like that,” Burnett said. “He’s one of the most humble superstars I’ve ever played with and I’ve played with a lot of them so he’s got my vote.”
Listen to the entire interview with AJ Burnett here: