A day after the Pittsburgh Pirates made some tough decisions at the trade deadline, the team gave fans something to cheer for.
For the first time since last Wednesday, the Pirates (53-51) found themselves in the win column with a 5-3 road victory Tuesday night against the Atlanta Braves (37-69).
Tony Watson made his debut as the Pirates’ closer and pitched a scoreless inning to earn his first save since April 22, 2015 (and his sixth career save). He struck out one batter and walked another in his appearance.
Pittsburgh starter Gerrit Cole (7-6, 2.73 ERA) earned the win — his second straight — allowing two runs (one earned) on seven hits in five innings. Additionally, Cole recorded seven ground ball outs.
In the previous series against the Milwaukee Brewers, the Brewers scored first in all three games, and the Braves continued that trend.
Cole recorded the first two outs of the fourth inning before allowing a single to Ender Inciarte. He would advance to second base on a passed ball by Francisco Cervelli. Inciarte scored on an A.J. Pierzynski RBI double.
What already was a disappointing night for Cervelli took a worse turn in the fifth inning when he was hit in the head by a pitch. Cervelli took his base and then exited the game. Eric Fryer took Cervelli’s place behind the plate.
The Braves held the Pirates to five hits. Two of those were by Adam Frazier, who started at second base and finished the game in left field. One of those hits was a double in the fifth inning that advanced Fryer to third base. Fryer scored on a Jordy Mercer RBI ground out.
The Braves reclaimed the lead in the bottom half of the inning when Nick Markakis singled in Jace Peterson. Gregory Polanco threw the ball to firstbaseman John Jaso, who then threw it to third baseman Jung Ho Kang, who tagged Matt Kemp out at third base.
But the Pirates had a four-run sixth inning that allowed them to pull away.
First, Matt Joyce recorded a one-out single to score Jaso and tie the game. Kang added double, which allowed the Pirates to take a 3-2 lead. Frazier then contributed with a two-out single that scored Starling Marte.
In the bottom of the inning, Antonio Bastardo pitched a scoreless sixth inning in his return to the Pirates. Pittsburgh acquired Bastardo in a trade with the New York Mets for Jon Niese.
With a save situation in play, this was the Pirates’ first chance to use their new trio of relievers to hold on to a lead.
Felipe Rivero got the first two outs of the seventh inning. He started his appearance by striking out Chase D’Arnaud but then walked Gordon Beckham and allowed Erick Aybar to single. Rivero was able to settle back in and strike out Freddie Freeman before Pittsburgh called upon Neftali Feliz was to record the inning’s final out.
Feliz did just that, getting Kemp to strike out on a foul tip. Feliz remained in the game to pitch the eighth inning, but he allowed Markakis to lead off the bottom half with his sixth home run of the season. Things settled down for Feliz, and he held onto the Pirates’ lead.
Wednesday night, former Brave Jeff Locke (8-6, 5.43 ERA) will face Atlanta’s Rob Whalen, who is making his Major League debut. Locke is 2-2 with a 4.89 ERA in seven career starts against the Braves.
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