PITTSBURGH - With a left-hander on the mound, the Kansas City Royals didn't want to throw Andrew McCutchen a strike.
"We didn't care if we walked him," manager Ned Yost said.
Sound strategy, poor execution.
McCutchen homered and drove in three runs, A.J. Burnett won his fifth consecutive start and the Pittsburgh Pirates finished their first sweep of an AL team in more than a decade by beating the Royals 3-2 Sunday.
McCutchen hit an RBI double in the first inning and hit a two-run homer in the third. That gave Burnett (6-2) and three relievers enough support for the Pirates to win their fourth in a row despite having only three hits from all their other players.
"The fact that McCutchen was the one who hurt us, that's the fact I'm very concerned about," Kansas City catcher Brayan Pena said.
Next up: Pittsburgh at Baltimore, Tuesday, 7 p.m.
McCutchen has feasted on left-handers, improving his average to .463 against them after two hits in his first two at-bats against Bruce Chen.
Alex Gordon and Alicedes Escobar each had two hits for the Royals, who have lost four in a row and six of eight.
This was the 50th interleague series the Pirates had played since taking three in a row from the Cleveland Indians on June 15-17, 2001.
Since May 25, the Pirates have the best record in the majors at 12-3.
With the win, and Cincinnati's loss Sunday night to the Tigers, the Pirates are in a first-place tie with the Reds at 32-27.
"This weekend was outstanding," Burnett said. "We are playing good ball now and we are hitting on a couple of cylinders and it's fun to watch."
Burnett allowed two runs on five hits and two walks with six strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings. Pittsburgh has won his past seven starts.
Burnett had a no-hitter through 5 1/3 innings until Gordon singled with one out in the sixth. He did not allow a baserunner until Eric Hosmer drew a two-out walk in the fourth or a run until Escobar's two-out double scored Pena in the seventh.
That snapped a streak of 20 consecutive innings without an earned run at PNC Park for Burnett. He is 4-0 with a 1.27 ERA at home this season.
"He had good tempo and good rhythm today on a hot day, and he was really efficient with things," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. "It was a very, very solid performance all across the board for A.J. today."
Tony Watson came into the game with runners at first and third and one out in the eighth, allowing Gordon to score on a Hosmer fielder's choice.
Juan Cruz walked the bases loaded but struck out Mitch Maier for the final out of the eighth.
With closer Joel Hanrahan unavailable because he had appeared in the past three games, Jason Grilli worked around trouble the ninth for his fourth career save and first of the season. With two on and no outs, Grilli stuck out Gordon and Johnny Giavotella to end the game.
Pittsburgh improved to 17-10 in one-run games.
McCutchen entered the game with 15 hits in his past 27 at-bats against left-handers. Despite going hitless over the first two games of the series, he made it 17 for 29 over the course of the first three innings.
"I hadn't been feeling that great the past few days, but after a few times out in the cage, I was able to put a show forth today," McCutchen said.
His first-inning double to right drove in Alex Presley, who led off the inning with a single. With Neil Walker on and two outs in the third, McCutchen lifted a 1-2 pitch from Chen into the left-field bleachers for his 11th homer of the season.
"He's leading everybody hitting left-handers," Yost said. "We really tried, even in the first inning, we didn't want to throw him a strike."
Chen (5-6) allowed three runs on four hits and a walk with five strikeouts in five innings. He came into the game with five wins in his past six starts but fell to 0-4 in his career at PNC Park.
Game notes: Opponents have been successful in 23 consecutive stolen base attempts against the Pirates.