Starling Marte smacked a two-run, walk-off home run to center field in the 10th inning, giving the Pirates a 6-5 win over the Braves on Sunday at PNC Park and a three-game sweep to move to 3-2 on the young season.
This came after a frustrating string of not-quite-converted opportunities to take the lead after Atlanta lifted Julio Teheran from an excellent seven-inning, 87-pitch start.
After Marte singled in Josh Harrison to pull within 4-3 in the bottom of the eighth, Andrew McCutchen came up with runners on the corners and one out against a good, but struggling Arodys Vizcaino, who had hit Harrison and given up two singles in the inning. Cutch went after the first pitch he saw, though, bouncing into a 6-4-3 double play upheld upon a replay review to end the inning.
Gregory Polanco singled and Josh Bell walked to open the bottom of the ninth against Proven Closer (TM) Jim Johnson. Jordy Mercer came up and showed bunt a couple times, getting into a favorable 2-1 count, when he *actually* bunted, popping it up foul to the catcher to give Johnson a free out. Pinch-hitter David Freese walked to load the bases and Francisco Cervelli, also pinch-hitting, grounded into a 5-4 fielder's choice to score a run, thanks to a clean (on review) slide by Freese at second to disrupt Brandon Philips. Harrison, hobbled by being hit in the foot area an inning earlier, had a chance too be the hero, but hacked at the first pitch for an extra-innings-inducing groundout.
The Pirates seemed to have the bullpen advantage against the Braves, but Felipe Rivero gave up back-to-back singles to Nick Markakis and Phillips to open the 10th, and Tyler Flowers' groundout scored Markakis for a 5-4 Atlanta lead.
The Pirates were not done, however, as Frazier led off the bottom of the inning with a double to center off Jose Ramirez, then Marte drove a fastball that just kept carrying enough to get over the center-field wall.
In his second start of the season, Gerrit Cole was not particularly efficient at putting hitters away, getting through six innings with three runs, eight hits, four strikeouts and two walks. He did, however, find his missing slider. Brooks Baseball says he threw it a robust 31 percent of the time, well above his career norms.
Cole fell in a 2-0 hole in the first, highlighted by a Dansby Swanson homer. Freddie Freeman went 4-for-5 with two solo homers, one for a 3-2 lead in the fifth and one off Antonio Bastardo to extend that to 4-2 in the seventh.
Trevor Williams pitched two excellent innings, getting three strikeouts and allowing one hit over the eighth and ninth.
Teheran kept the Bucs under control until the fourth, when a Bell double and Mercer single plated a run each. Marte, the leadoff hitter of the inning, was frozen by a pickoff throw but made it to second when the ball glanced off Freeman's glove. Marte did get picked off in the sixth, and Frazier denied Marte a chance to hit in the fifth, getting thrown out on some kind of ball-in-the-dirt/delayed-steal type of thing.
So, much like the first two games of the series, the Pirates didn't earn many style points, and may not have come away with all three wins against a better opponent. It was by no means a dominating sweep, but we'll obviously take it over a few well-played, tough-luck games.