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Pirates lose 5-4 on Braves' 9th-inning homer

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Braves won 5-4 as Christian Bethancourt homered on the very first pitch Vance Worley threw in the ninth.

Starting from there: I don't know Clint Hurdle's rationale for having Worley pitch a tie game in the ninth, given that several key relievers should have been available, but it might have had to do with the eighth, ninth and first spots coming up in the Braves' order and the likelihood that the pitcher's spot would come up for the Pirates in the 10th. (EDIT: Oops, nope, Hurdle double-switched, so he was probably hoping Worley would pitch multiple innings. Sorry I missed that -- it all happened so quickly.) In general, a tie game in the ninth is pretty much the opposite of the sort of spot where Worley should be pitching. In the defenses of Worley and the Pirates, the one pitch Worley threw probably caught a bit too much of the plate but wasn't a complete meatball -- it was a slider Bethancourt had to go down and get.

In fact, the Pirates' fifth-starter candidates gave up all five of the Braves' runs. Jeff Locke pitched the first 6.1 innings and was ... almost kind of passable, I guess, striking out four, walking two and getting 10 ground-ball outs but giving up four runs. He allowed a leadoff homer to Chris Johnson in the second and another run in the third when Cameron Maybin singled, stole second, moved to third on a grounder and came home on a sacrifice fly.

Gregory Polanco then hit a bunt ground ball in the fourth and came home when Andrew McCutchen tied the game with a shot to left center, his eighth homer of the year. In the bottom half of the inning, though, Locke walked a bad hitter in Jonny Gomes, who then stole second and came home on Bethancourt's single.

After McCutchen's homer, the Pirates' offense went silent for awhile, and they watched as Maybin put the Braves up by two with an RBI single in the seventh. (Locke was still in the game at that point; the Pirates might have had a better shot at keeping that run off the board if they'd removed him.) In the eighth, though, Francisco Cervelli and Jordy Mercer reached on ground-ball singles, then came home on Polanco's third hit of the game, a line drive to center.

It was frustrating watching Jason Grilli make mincemeat of the heart of the Pirates' order in the ninth, not only because he could never seem to pitch nearly so well for the Pirates last year but also because it meant the Pirates would have to win in extra innings, something they have yet to do this season. As it turned out, Worley didn't let them get that far.

Oh well. Thus marks the end of the Pirates' four-game winning streak. They'll get one last shot against the Braves as Gerrit Cole faces Alex Wood tomorrow.