Pittsburgh Pirates Sweep Atlanta Braves

Apr 9, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Starling Marte (6) singles against the Atlanta Braves during the fourth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 9, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Starling Marte (6) singles against the Atlanta Braves during the fourth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The Pittsburgh Pirates finished off their first series sweep of the 2017 season on Sunday

In order to have a successful season, a Major League Baseball team needs to win series. That is exactly what the Pittsburgh Pirates did against the Atlanta Braves this weekend. However, they took it to the next level by sweeping the Braves.

The Pittsburgh Pirates earned a 6-5 victory in 10 innings on Sunday. It was a game the Pirates did not lead until, literally, the very end. With the win, the Bucs are now 3-2 this season.

Gerrit Cole made his second start of the season for the Pirates on Sunday. Unfortunately, it got off to a very rough start.

Cole allowed a solo home run to Dansby Swanson on just the third pitch of the game to give the Braves a 1-0 lead. Following a Freddie Freeman single, Adonis Garcia struck out. On the play Freman was running and, originally, was called out at second base. However, replay overturned the call.

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Nick Markakis then delivered a RBI single to make it 2-0 Atlanta. All told, it took Gerrit Cole 22 pitches to get through the first inning.

The Pirates would rally to tie the game at two in the 4th inning. Starling Marte singled to lead off the inning, and would then take second base on a Freddie Freeman error. This came on a play where Marte had gotten picked off, but the Braves could not execute the play.

With two outs, Josh Bell would hit his second double of the season. Marte scored and the Pirate cut the Atlanta lead to 2-1. Jordy Mercer would then single home Bell to tie the game at 2.

This tie, however, would be short lived. With one out in the top of the 5th inning, Freddie Freeman hit his first of two solo home runs on the day to regain the lead for Atlanta at 3-2. This was also the second home run allowed by Cole on Sunday.

Gerrit Cole would pitch out of trouble in the sixth inning to finish the game with 6 innings pitched, allowing three runs on eight hits and two home runs. Cole also walked two batters and struck out four.

After a rough first inning, Cole settled in and pitched much better for the next five innings. But his first inning simply was not good enough and it helped to sink the Bucs on Sunday. Moving forward, Cole needs to be better than he was on Sunday afternoon.

Atlanta would add to their lead in the 7th inning. With one out, Freddie Freeman took Antonio Bastardo deep for his second home run of the day. Bastardo allowed that one run on two hits in his lone inning of work.

Freddie Freeman was arguably the biggest reason the Braves were nearly victorious on Sunday. He finished the game 4-for-5 with two home runs, a double, and a stolen base.

In the bottom of the 8th inning, the Pirates would pull within a run. Josh Harrison was hit by a pitch with one out and this was followed by an Adam Frazier single.

Starling Marte would then collect his second hit of the game. On the play, Atlanta left fielder Jace Peterson bobbled the ball allowing Harrison to score and Frazier to go to third base. This cut the Atlanta lead to 4-3.

Andrew McCutchen came to the plate with runners on the corner, the Pirates down a run, and just one out. However, his early season struggles would continue. He hit into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play, and the Pirates trailed 4-3 after eight innings.

Trevor Williams made his 2017 debut on Sunday. Williams pitched a pair of scoreless innings in relief, allowing just a single. He also struck out three batters during his two innings of work on Sunday afternoon.

The Pirates would tie the game in the 9th inning against Atlanta closer Jim Johnson. Gregory Polanco singled to lead off the inning and Josh Bell followed with a walk. Things would begin to get odd after this.

Jordy Mercer stepped to the plate with two on and no outs. Predictably, he was asked to lay down a sacrifice bunt. Sacrifice bunting is something a position player should never be asked to do. Giving outs away lessens a team’s chances of scoring.

While ahead in the count 2-1, Jordy Mercer popped up a bunt attempt that Atlanta catcher Tyler Flowers caught for the first out of the inning. Ugh. Adding to the pain is the fact that Johnson’s control was a mess in the ninth inning.

After the bunting debacle, pinch hitter David Freese would walk to load the bases with one out. Francisco Cervelli would then hit into what should have been a game-ending 5-4-3 double play. However, Brandon Phillips could not turn the double play. This tied the game at 4.

Josh Harrison would then ground out to end the 9th inning, send the game to extra innings. Harrison was also lifted from the game after this as he appeared to injury his calf when he got hit by a pitch in the 8th inning. This led to Adam Frazier playing third base, Alen Hanson second base, and David Freese first base.

Felipe Rivero would pitch the top of the 10th inning for the Pirates. And while he got charged with a run, it was not completely his doing. Nick Markakis singled to lead off the inning and then Brandon Phillips hit a dribbler that barely snuck through the infield.

Phillips’ hit gave the Braves runners on the corners with no one out. Rivero then got Tyler Flowers to ground out to third baseman Adam Frazier, who had Markakis dead to rights at home plate. However, Frazier could not field the ball which allowed Markakis to score. This gave Atlanta a 5-4 lead.

Adam Fraizer did his best to make up for his defensive folly by doubling to lead off the bottom of the 10th inning. This double would prove to be huge, as Starling Marte followed with a walk-off home run. This was Marte’s first home run of the season and the second walk-off home run of his career.

Marte finished the game 4-for-5 with a pair of RBIs and his walk-off blast. Pirate fans are watching Starling Marte bud into a superstar before their very eyes.

The home run by Marte was a towering one that landed in the Pirate bullpen. This also gave the Pirates their first lead of the game. Talk about good timing.

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Sunday’s win was an exciting one for the Pirates. It also shows the resolve of this team. They scored at least one run in each of the final three innings of the game, and this fueled their second come-from-behind victory in as many days.

The Pittsburgh Pirates start a three-game series with the Cincinnati Reds at PNC Park tomorrow. Tyler Glasnow will start for the Pirates, while the Reds will go with Brandon Finnegan. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 PM.