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Failures by bullpen, McCutchen lead to long, painful 6-5 loss

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MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Atlanta Braves Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Pirates stranded 13 runners, Andrew McCutchen continued to suffocate the team’s offense, and the bullpen blew two leads as the Pirates lost to the Braves, 6-5, following a very long rain delay.

The Pirates got on the board quickly, but it could have been more. A walk to Adam Frazier and a single by Josh Harrison put two aboard, but McCutchen rolled over yet another one and grounded into a double play. Josh Bell partially retrieved the situation by dropping a double down the left field line to bring in Frazier. After an infield hit by Francisco Cervelli, Bell got called out of the baseline as he tried to avoid a tag at the plate following a checked-swing roller by John Jaso. Bell was clearly far out of the basepath, but Clint Hurdle, eager to avoid having to watch McCutchen hit again, argued the call anyway and got himself tossed.

The Pirates added a second run in the third when Jaso brought in Bell with a two-out single. They missed another big chance in the fourth, though, when Glasnow’s second hit, another walk to Frazier and another hit by Harrison loaded the bases with one out. McCutchen killed that bid with ANOTHER double play grounder. In the sixth, Mercer led off by lining his third HR of the year into the stands in right, but the Pirates blew still another chance when Glasnow and Harrison hit their third singles to put two on with one out. McCutchen just flied out this time, but Bell stranded the runners. McCutchen finished the game 0-for-5, stranded seven runners and is now batting an even .200.

Glasnow meanwhile battled through plenty of trouble. Over six innings, he gave up nine hits and two walks, but he got plenty of ground balls, including two double plays. Actually, three double plays when you count a strike-em-out, pick-em-off one in which Cervelli caught Brandon Phillips off first. Glasnow just couldn’t contain Matt Adams, who doubled and scored in the fourth and hit a long HR in the sixth. In the end, Glasnow threw 61 of 91 pitches for strikes. A month ago, 91 pitches might have gotten him through four innings, not six.

Glasnow’s departure, with a 3-2 lead, came just before a rain delay of over three hours. Once the game resumed, the Pirates and their middle-reliever-laden bullpen quickly blew the lead. With Daniel Hudson of no use in close games, they turned to Wade LeBlanc in the seventh, taking him out of his successful role as a long reliever. He quickly gave up the tying run on a one-out single, a wild pitch and another single. The Pirates belatedly turned to Felipe Rivero, who gave up a two-out single that scored the go-ahead run following a passed ball and a ground out.

The Pirates took the lead back in the top of the ninth. They loaded the bases with two out on singles by Bell (who, with Hurdle in the clubhouse, had not been lifted for defense) and Francisco Cervelli, and a walk to pinch hitter David Freese. Mercer then looped a single just out of reach of the shortstop, scoring two and putting the Pirates on top, 5-4.

The ever-shaky Tony Watson, though, wasn’t up to the task. He yielded an infield single to Ender Inciarte — his eighth hit in two games — and a game-tying, two-out double to Nick Markakis. After an intentional walk to Matt Kemp, Watson gave up a walkoff single to Adams, the third left-handed batter to get a hit in the inning.