PHOENIX -- There could be another exclusive pitcher-catcher duo for the Phillies.
Remember the Steve Carlton-Tim McCarver combination so prevalent and productive? Now, there could be another pitcher-catcher combo to work exclusively.
The duo of pitcher A. J. Burnett and catcher Wil Nieves is slowly yielding dividends, and the rewards were evident Sunday. That’s when Burnett shut down Arizona with eight strong innings and led the Phillies to a 2-0 win over the Diamondbacks (see Instant Replay).
Burnett and Nieves have now combined for 15 scoreless innings, including the eight turned in Sunday afternoon. For his effort, Burnett, pitching through an inguinal hernia, picked up his first win as a Phillie and recorded a season-high eight strikeouts. Along the way, he scattered five hits and allowed the leadoff hitter to reach base in only one inning.
“I’m basically a two-pitch pitcher and both were working pretty good,” Burnett said. “I was able to make pitches when I had to make them and it was a good day.”
From Nieves’ perspective, there’s not much of a secret to success. It's just chemistry.
“[Burnett] trusts me,” Nieves said. “He’s very involved in what he does so the less he has to think about situations, the better. [On Sunday], he just pounded the strike zone and really never shook me off.”
Nieves said he counted only one changeup from Burnett for his eight innings as the veteran right-hander went with his fastball, curve and slider.
“We stayed with what was working,” Nieves said. “Plus, we always seem to be on the same page.”
For the third straight game, the Diamondbacks received a quality outing from their starter and the Phillies took advantage early.
Ben Revere led off the game with a single to center, stole second and scored on a single from Chase Utley.
The Phillies added an important run in the sixth.
Utley led off with a double and Marlon Byrd followed with a sharp grounder in the hole at shortstop. Chris Owings made a strong play to get to the ball but his throw to catch Utley going to third eluded Martin Prado, allowing Utley to score.
Overall, the Phillies had difficulty getting to Arizona starter Brandon McCarthy, who recorded a career-high 12 strikeouts.
“He was good and kept the ball down,” Utley said of McCarthy. “He had life on his fastball and his cutter was effective.”
The Phillies ended their 10-game road trip to Colorado, Los Angeles and Arizona by winning six of the last eight games. Overall, the Phils finished with a 6-4 record on the western swing.