Joe Musgrove scattered three hits over the first eight innings, at one point retiring fourteen straight batters, before tiring in the ninth, just short of his quest for his first professional complete game. To top it off, he chipped in two singles and a run scored.
The Braves starter Kevin Gausman was not so fortunate. After a scoreless first inning, tarnished only by Starling Marte’s double, the Pirates jumped on Gausman for five runs in the second. With one out Gregory Polanco singled to right, stole second and scored ahead of Elias Diaz’ first homer of the season.
After Adam Frazier struck out, Musgrove started another rally with the first of five consecutive hits, ending only when Starling Marte was thrown out trying to score from first on Josh Bell’s double down the left field line.
The Pirates tacked on single runs in the third on consecutive double by Colin Moran and Polanco, and again in the fifth on Moran’s solo home run to center field, giving the Pirates a 7-1 lead.
Gausman finished with seven runs allowed on twelve hits in five innings.
Meanwhile Musgrove was cruising, averaging barely three pitches a batter as he set down fourteen consecutive batter from the third through the seventh. Ozzie Albies broke the string with a walk in the eighth, but pinch-hitter Matt Joyce promptly hit into an inning ending double play.
Musgrove went back out for the ninth with 94 pitches under his belt, but Ronald Acuna and Dansby Swanson sent him to the showers when the opened the inning with back to back home runs.
Looking to lock down the victory, the recently rarely used closer Felipe Vazquez was summoned from the bullpen in a non-save situation. Freedie Freeman walked and an out later Nick Markakis doubled him in to cut the Pirates’ lead to 7-4. Again the anxiety grew.
Can’t we ever have joy in Mudville?
But The Nightmare buckled down, getting Austin Riley on a soft liner to third and Johan Camargo to strike out on three pitches.
The Pirates have a chance to take two out of three as the series concludes with another Thursday afternoon game, starting at 12:35 p.m. Eastern at PNC Park. The Braves will send Mike Foltynewicz (1-4, 6.10) to the mound against the Pirates’ Chris Archer (2-5, 5.66)