Comeback falls short as Pittsburgh Pirates lose finale to Braves, 2-1
By Tyler Waite
The comeback attempt by the Pittsburgh Pirates fell short Sunday afternoon as the Atlanta Braves took the series finale by a score of 2-1. The Pirates now sit nine games over and 8.5 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Central, whose division crown seems to be moving further and further away from the Pirates every day.
Jeff Locke took the mound for Pittsburgh and only lasted five innings, but only allowed one run on five hits and three walks. Locke threw 94 pitches and didn’t seem to be hitting his spots from the start of the game, but was able to limit the damage. Alex Wood opposed Locke on the hill and pitched a gem, throwing 7.1 innings while allowing no runs and striking out eight. Typically the Pirates hit lefties well, and they tagged Wood for three runs on seven hits back on June 7th. But that would not be in the cards on Sunday.
The game was scoreless until the fifth inning when Nick Markakis singled to right field, driving in Cameron Maybin and giving the Braves a 1-0 lead. Atlanta would double that lead in the seventh when Jace Peterson hit a solo home run off of Vance Worley. The Pirates attempted to rally in the bottom of the ninth when Francisco Cervelli walked with two outs and Jordy Mercer doubled to left-center after two Braves’ outfielders collided, dropping the ball in the process. Cervelli would score, closing the gap to one. However, Gregory Polanco would strike out swinging at a pitch in the dirt while pinch-hitting for Sean Rodriguez, ending the game and securing the Braves’ 2-1 victory.
What Stood Out
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Polanco had a moment to be the hero on Sunday, but couldn’t come through in the clutch. It’s tough to walk-off the opposition, and there’s a reason that walk-offs don’t happen often for a team during the course of the season. But Polanco’s strikeout just reminded everyone of his offensive woes on the season. If he doesn’t start hitting quickly, the bench or Triple-A could be in his future.
Andrew McCutchen started the game after being hit by a pitch in his left forearm during Saturday’s game. He went 1-4 on the day. Jordy Mercer went 3-4 and was the lone standout offensive performer for the Pirates, who only totaled six hits in the game. Mercer’s average is now up to .240 as he tries to recover from his early season offensive struggles.
Before the game, the Pirates made some interesting roster moves, per David Todd of 970 ESPN:
Gorkys Hernandez ended up starting in right field and went 0-3, seeing just seven pitches total in those at-bats.
The Pittsburgh Pirates (42-33) are off on Monday and then begin their last road series before the all-star break against the Detroit Tigers (39-36) on Tuesday. Gerrit Cole (11-3, 2.16 ERA) hopes to recover from his last start in which he allowed five runs on eight hits against the Reds as he starts for the Pirates. He’ll be opposed by Justin Verlander (0-1, 6.17 ERA) who will make his third start of the season. First pitch is scheduled for 7:08 PM.