Pirates Fall in Home Run Duel
PITTSBURGH – Pinch-hitter Evan Gattis connected for a tiebreaking, two-run homer in the eighth inning and the Atlanta Braves beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-4 on Thursday night.
Atlanta brothers B.J. and Justin Upton homered in the same game for the second time this season as the Braves continued their torrid play. Atlanta improved to a major league-best 13-2 after Gattis hit a sinker from Jared Hughes (1-1) into the left-field bleachers for the first pinch-hit homer of his career.
Anthony Varvaro (1-0) won in relief of starter Julio Teheran. Craig Kimbrel worked a perfect ninth for his seventh save.
Russell Martin and Pedro Alvarez each hit their first homer of the year, but the Pirates couldn’t climb above .500. Travis Snider added two doubles and Garrett Jones drove in two runs.
Atlanta pitchers came in with a 1.77 ERA – easily the best in baseball – but Teheran continued to be the one member of the starting staff still searching for solid footing. The 22-year-old struggled with his command in five innings, giving up four runs on seven hits while striking out four and walking three.
Teheran had been lights out against right-handed batters but surrendered Martin’s first homer with the Pirates leading off the second. Alvarez – in the midst of a 4 for 45 (.089) slump to begin the season – drilled a 91 mph slider to the batter’s eye leading off the fourth.
While Teheran is a permanent part of Atlanta’s future, Pittsburgh left-hander Jeff Locke’s job security is more tenuous. He won a starting spot almost by default after injuries to Jeff Karstens and Francisco Liriano gave the Pirates a major hole at the back end of the rotation.
Both starters left the game with a 4-all tie before the Braves broke through against Hughes.
Pittsburgh pitching coach Ray Searage came out to chat with Hughes, but three pitches later Gattis turned on a 92 mph sinker and drilled it down the left-field line to put the Braves in front to stay.