This game wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. The Pirates scored early and often in this one to defeat the Braves in the series opener.
The Bucs scored three runs in the first and cruised to an 8-2 lead before the Braves scored three straight runs late to make the game a save opportunity for Mark Melancon, who nailed it down for his 12th save of the season.
John Jaso led off the bottom of the first inning with a walk and after singles by Gregory Polanco and David Freese, the Bucs had bases loaded with one out. A wild pitch scored Jaso, Cervelli’s groundout scored Polanco and Matt Joyce (starting in place of Starling Marte, who is out for paternity leave) singled in the third run of the game to give the Bucs a 3-0 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.
Polanco and Freese were back at it in the 3rd inning with back-to-back singles. Cervelli followed with an RBI single and Josh Harrison‘s RBI groundout made it 5-0. JHay added an RBI triple in the bottom of the 5th inning to make it 6-0.
With a 6-0 lead, Jon Niese was cruising along with five shutout innings until serving up a home run to Jeff Francoeur. His blast is just the Braves 10th home run of the season…yeah it’s that bad. Joyce got the runs back in the 7th inning with a two-run blast for his fifth long ball this season. Seriously, how good has Joyce been this year? Five home runs, 15 RBIs, .372 average and a ridiculous 1.267 OPS. I’ve been scratching my head to figure out where Joyce could get more time in the lineup, but he’s absolutely blocked by the Bucs outfield. What a bat coming off the bench though.
The Cory Luebke project was back at it in the 8th inning where he found a way to give up three earned runs on just seven pitches, including a two-run home run to Kelly Johnson. Yeah, the Bucs gave up two home runs to the punchless Braves lineup. Luebke’s horrific outing led to the game being a save opportunity for Melancon.
The Pirates move to 20-17 this season and they need to keep stacking wins against a bad team like Atlanta with three games remaining in this series.