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Phillies come up short in Burnett's final outing

Howard homers, drives in two; struggling starter strikes out seven

PHILADELPHIA -- A.J. Burnett said in San Diego last week that he expected a lot of things to be different with the Phillies in 2014.

"A lot," Burnett repeated.

Burnett spoke coyly that night at Petco Park, but he promised to discuss everything following his final start of the season, which came Saturday night in a 4-2 loss to the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. He allowed five hits, four runs, three walks, two home runs and struck out seven in 6 2/3 innings. He fell to 8-18 with a 4.59 ERA.

Burnett leads baseball this season in losses and walks. He is the first Phillies pitcher to lose 18 games since Steve Carlton lost 20 in 1973. He is the first Phillies pitcher to walk 96 or more batters since Jose de Jesus walked 128 in '91.

"It's obviously a frustrating year," Burnett said. "You come over here and you expect to make an impact. And you make the wrong impact."

Burnett has pitched with an inguinal hernia since April. He said he wished he would have taken care of it earlier, because it bothered him throughout the season.

Burnett said he will have surgery next week to repair it. The rehab should take two to three weeks. After that, he must decide if he will pitch next season. He has until five days following the World Series to exercise the $12.75 million player option he earned when he made his 32nd start of the season last week.

If he declines, he will become a free agent. Burnett said he has not made a decision.

"There are too many things to name right now," said Burnett, when asked what will go into his decision. "Off the bat, my family. It's ultimately going to come down to me. I had the same thoughts last year. Then I woke up and I wanted to compete. So I can't just shut that down if it's still there. But then again, my youngins, they have a say in it."

But Burnett also signed with the Phillies in February because he said he believed the Phillies had a chance to win. They will play their final game of the season Sunday, which concludes their third consecutive season without a winning record. They will finish in last place in the National League East for the first time since 2000, despite a franchise record payroll.

Asked whether he wants to return to Philadelphia if he decides to pitch again, Burnett said, "It's something I'll have to think about as well. There's a lot of variables that are going to come into play. But it'll definitely be in my mind, for sure."

For most people, it would be impossible to leave $12.75 million on the table, but Burnett, 37, has made more than $150 million in his career. He has made $17.75 million with the Phillies, which includes salary, signing bonuses and performance bonuses.

"Money ain't everything," Burnett said. "It just shows you this year. They paid me all that, and 18 losses. Money is money."

Ryan Howard paced the Phillies on offense, homering in the second and singling to score Chase Utley in the sixth inning to tie the game as part of a 3-for-4 night. But Burnett walked Freddie Freeman to start the seventh. Justin Upton followed and hit a 1-2 curveball to left-center field for a two-run home run to hand the Braves a 4-2 lead.

Burnett then walked Jason Heyward, and Phillies pitching coach Bob McClure visited the mound. Burnett seemed disinterested in whatever McClure had to say. He turned away at one point, and as McClure left the mound to return to the dugout, Burnett could be seen on TV uttering an expletive.

Burnett said it wasn't directed at his pitching coach.

"Heck no," Burnett said. "... Not one bit. It was just everything. Frustration. We're great."

Burnett said earlier that his relationship with McClure is fine.

"Mac's been great," Burnett said. "He's been in our corner. He's done nothing but support us all year. I was more hot about that hook. I haven't hung that many hooks. I don't think I hung a hook all last year.

"It seems I'm getting beat on my best pitches a lot. It's frustrating. It's tough to swallow."

Burnett faced three more hitters before manager Ryne Sandberg pulled him after 119 pitches.

Burnett indicated in San Diego he probably would pitch next season if he could lift his right arm above his head. It sounded like he might be dealing with more than just the hernia, but he said Saturday his arm is healthy.

"It's there," Burnett said. "Yeah, I'm healthy enough to compete. That's what it comes down to -- competing. If I still have that drive to compete, then I think I'm going to have to play. We'll cross that bridge when it comes."

The bridge is coming soon.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for
Read More: Philadelphia Phillies, A.J. Burnett, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley