For four innings this game looked like any other the Pirates had played the last week - they hadn’t scored but neither had the opposition. Coming off a five game streak that saw them score only five runs while also allowing only five runs (and losing three of the five games in the process), but by the end Dansby Swanson had slammed a pair of two-run homers to seal a 6-1 Braves victory.
Ivan Nova sailed through the first three innings, not allowing a base runner while tossing only 29 pitches. After retiring Ronald Acuna in the fourth, Nova allowed a pair of singles to Ender Inciarte and Freddie Freeman, but quickly got a pair of ground outs the end the threat.
With one out in the top of the fifth the Pirates’ string of pitching excellence was snapped in an instant. Kurt Suzuki lined a single to left center field and Swanson smoked the next pitch into the seats down the left field line for his 11th homer of the season, giving the Braves a 2-0 lead.
Meanwhile Braves starter Kevin Gausman was rolling along with a one-hit shutout through five innings before Pittsburgh finally mounted a threat in the bottom of the sixth. Both Josh Harrison and Corey Dickerson singled with one out, and the Braves’ middle infielders collided at second base, both attempting to take a throw from the pitcher, but replay showed second baseman Ozzie Albies catching the bag with his toe for the second out. Gregory Polanco drove a ball down the right field line that narrowly hooked foul, but did settle for a walk to load the bases - only to have Josh Bell ground out weakly on the first pitch.
The game might have stayed close but down two runs at that point Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle tossed the white flag towards the bullpen, summoning Michael Feliz for his first appearance since being demoted to Triple-A in July. Johan Camargo lined out to short on a ball struck at 99 mphm; Albies lined a single to left at 92; Suzuki doubled to left at 104 and Swanson stroked his second homer in two swings at 103, travelling 391 feet into the seats in left center and giving the Braves a 5-0 lead.
Just recalled Clay Holmes threw a scoreless eighth while walking a batter, then struggled through a ninth where he only allowed one run after hitting Suzuki in the left elbow (forcing his removal from the game), followed by a single, walk and wild pitch that Francisco jogged towards the dugout to flag down - a major league leading 73rd wild pitch.
Polanco got another good swing off reliever Chad Sobotka in the ninth, killing any potential rally by leading off the inning with his 20th homer, deep into the Clemente seats in right.
The loss drops the Pirates below .500 at 63-64, 9.5 games behind the division leading Cubs and 6.5 out of the second Wild Card spot with only 35 games remaining in the season.
The Pirates hope to salvage one of the three games in the series as it concludes on Wednesday night at 7:05 pm Eastern. Julio Teheran (8-7, 4.24) faces Trevor Williams (10-9, 3.53) who’s allowed only three runs in his last six starts.