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Pirates score a dozen, eke out win

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Braves' decision to change the album cover fire their manager had an immediate impact, but probably not the one they wanted, as the Pirates scored seven times in the first and two more in the second.  A play at the plate botched by 39-year-old catcher and cleanup hitter A.J. Pierzynski opened the floodgates in the first, as the Pirates sent eleven men to the plate.  The inning only ended when Ender Inciarte made a nice throw to get John Jaso at the plate.  Jaso had two hits in the inning, including a two-run double, and the action also saw a second Braves error and an RBI single by Juan Nicasio.  Gregory Polanco's second double (he later had a third) and Francisco Cervelli's second RBI hit -- a nice way to celebrate a contract extension -- keyed a two-run second.

Unfortunately, Nicasio wasn't as effective on the mound as he was at the plate.  After getting through two innings with little trouble, he started the third by allowing a leadoff triple to Bud Norris and a homerun by weak-hitting Mallex Smith.  Nicasio then loaded the bases with two walks and a single, but survived with only one more run scoring thanks to the combination of a sliding catch by Polanco, the Braves' reluctance to take pitches, and a double play.  Nicasio allowed two more runs in the fifth, both unearned due to Jaso's first error of the season.

One highlight of the game came in the bottom of the fifth when Hurdle mercifullly ended Nicasio's outing by sending Alen Hanson up to hit.  Hanson showed his speed by beating out a grounder to short for his first major league hit, then going to third on an errant pickoff throw.  He scored on a hit by Andrew McCutchen and a grounder scored another run, putting the Pirates up 11-5.

Unfortunately, the Pirates' train wreck of a pitching staff was determined to help the anemic-hitting Braves get back in the game.  Ryan Vogelsong gave up a run in the sixth and had to escape a bases-loaded, one out situation.  In the seventh, Vogelsong gave up a double, a hit batsman and another double, with a double play ball fortunately preceding the second double.  Clint Hurdle finally decided Vogelsong had to go, but Smith greeted Arquimedes Caminero with another homer, making it 11-9.  Neftali Feliz finally brought the inning to an end.

The Pirates got one run back in the bottom half, when McCutchen tripled with two out and scored on a wild pitch.  Tony Watson and Mark Melancon then had uneventful innings, with Melancon getting yet another save in a game that should have been a blowout.  So the Pirates hung on, 12-9.

The Pirates collected 21 hits.  Every starter, including the pitcher, had at least one, with Jaso, McCutchen, Polanco and Cervelli each getting three.  Every starter except Matt Joyce both scored and knocked in at least one run.  Yet, against one of the weakest hitting teams to surface in years, the Pirates had to use all three of their "good" relievers.  This game could have a meaningful impact apart from producing a win if it convinces the front office that it's past time to address the pitching issues that they failed to address in the off-season.  So far, they seem to be in denial about the fact that they have one of the game's worst staffs.