The ball was flying out of PNC Park Thursday night, but unfortunately for the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Bucs pitching staff allowed a couple more long balls than their offense could muster.
Evan Gattis broke open a 4-4 game in the eighth inning with a pinch hit two-run homer, to lead the Atlanta Braves to a 6-4 victory over the host Pirates. There were six homers hit on the night, but four of them belonged to the Braves.
Atlanta started the home run derby right away when B.J. Upton led off the game with his second homer of the season, smacking an 0-2 pitch from Pirates starter Jeff Locke into the left field bleachers.
However the Pirates came right back in their half of the first.
Travis Snider worked a walk from Braves starter Julio Teheran and moved to third on a broken bat double from Andrew McCutchen. Snider scored the tying run on a Garrett Jones sac fly. Neil Walker followed by drawing a walk, but the rally ended when Pedro Alvarez grounded out sharply to second.
The Bucs took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the second when Russell Martin led off the inning with his first homer as a Pirate, but the lead wouldn’t last long.
Locke issued a two-out walk to Justin Upton, which proved to be big, as Chris Johnson followed with a two-run homer to center to give Atlanta a 3-2 lead.
The Pirates had an answer though in the fourth as Alvarez led off the inning a mammoth shot to center to tie the game at three. Alvarez’s first homer of the season was measured at close to 450 feet and hit high off the batters eye in center field.
But it was Justin’s Upton’s turn to answer with a long ball of his own in the fifth inning. Locke left a breaking ball out over the plate and Upton crushed his ninth homer of the season to put the Braves back up 4-3.
Yet like they did all game, the Bucs had an answer.
Travis Snider continued his hot hitting in the Pirates half of the fifth by smacking his second double of the game. Snider moved to third on a wild pitch and after a ground out by McCutchen, scored the tying run on a double off the bat of Jones. Alvarez was then walked intentionally and Martin reached on an infield single to load the bases, but the Bucs couldn’t take the lead as Clint Barmes flew out to center to end the inning.
Neither young starter was very effective.
Locke lasted only 4.2 innings and allowed four runs on six hits, but three of those six hits left the yard. He didn’t show good command from the first batter of the game, as he also walked four.
Teheran allowed four runs on seven hits, walking three in five innings of work.
On a day where the ball was flying out of the yard, the difference turned out to be the bullpens.
The Braves bullpen closed the door, while that of the Pirates simply did not.
Jared Hughes continues to struggle and surrendered the two-run bomb to Gattis, but it was a questionable decision that he was even in the game at that point.
The Pirates were rained out on Tuesday and A.J. Burnett worked deep into the game last night, but for some reason Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle elected to let Hughes work two innings with a bunch of fresh arms in the pen.
That strategy backfired and it resulted in a loss for the Bucs.
It’s worth noting that Pirates left fielder Starling Marte saw his 10-game hit streak snapped with a miserable game at the plate. Marte not only went 0-ffor-5, but struck out all five times at bat.
The Bucs will try and take Game 2 of the series on Friday when Wandy Rodriguez (1-0, 1.00 ERA) takes the hill against Tim Hudson (2-0, 2.50)
Winning Pitcher: Anthony Varvaro (1-0)
Losing Pitcher: Jared Hughes (1-1)
Save: Craig Kimbrel (7)
Home Runs: B.J. Upton (2), Chris Johnson (2), Justin Upton (9), Evan Gattis (5), Russell Martin (1), Pedro Alvarez (1)