So the Pirates ended up taking three of four from the Braves, but this is the only game of the series that really fit the expected template: that of a weaker team losing to a much stronger one, and in some cases beating itself. Jeff Locke had his best start of the season (or maybe second-best, depending on what you make of his umpire-aided performance in Colorado), Gregory Polanco continued to emerge as a top young player, and the Pirates cruised to an 8-2 victory Thursday.
The Pirates got two runs in the first as Starling Marte, making his first plate appearance since the birth of his daughter, drove in two with a bloop single. But they really got going in the second, as John Jaso tripled (!), Andrew McCutchen brought a run in with a single, and Polanco muscled a home run to left-center. It was one of the Pirates' most impressive homers of the year so far -- Mike Foltynewicz' pitch was outside, and Polanco reached over to get to it before driving it over 400 feet to the opposite field.
The Braves got a run back in the fourth as Jeff Francoeur and Tyler Flowers led off with consecutive doubles, but the Pirates added a run of their own in the fifth on Polanco's triple and Jung Ho Kang's sacrifice fly. Francoeur led off the sixth with a homer, but the Braves kept coughing up runs in the bottom of the inning. Jaso had already singled home a run when Polanco came to bat with the bases loaded. He struck out swinging, but even when he wasn't successful, he was successful -- the ball got away from Flowers, and a run came home.
Locke exited after the seventh after allowing two runs and two walks while striking out six. While success should generally be expected for almost any major league starter against the Braves' very weak lineup, it was nice to see him have a strong start.
He was relieved by Wilfredo Boscan, who finally got to pitch in his fourth career promotion to the big leagues. It was a good debut, too, as he pitched a perfect eighth inning, working in the 91-93 MPH range and culminating with a strikeout of Francoeur. He got another whiff to lead off the ninth, then allowed a single before finishing out the game without further trouble.
Oh, and in case you're wondering, it appears neither of the photo services SB Nation uses had someone taking pictures of tonight's game. Locke, Polanco and Boscan aside, what happened tonight isn't supposed to be particularly newsworthy. Just a better team taking care of business against a bad one.
The Bucs are now 22-18, and they'll begin a home series against the Rockies tomorrow.