Braves fall to Pirates, split series

After starting April winless in four games, the Braves had a chance to finish it atop the National League East.

They’ll have to wait, though, after a 9-3 loss on Monday dropped them one-half game behind the upstart Washington Nationals, who were idle.

As downtrodden as the Phillies seem to be so far this season, some things never change. The Braves want to take over first place? They will have to go through the five-time defending division champions, who visit Atlanta for the next three days, their first trip to Turner Field since knocking the Braves out of the postseason last Sept. 26-28.

The Braves spent the last four games of April getting more than they wanted from the Pirates, who came into the wrap-around series with the lowest-scoring offense in the major leagues by 18 runs.

The Pirates scored a season-high nine Monday to split the series 2-2 and break up a streak of five straight series victories by the Braves since their season-opening sweep by New York. James McDonald outpitched Mike Minor, who gave up a season-high seven runs in 6 1/3 innings.

“(McDonald) kept them in the game and their offense came alive,” said Braves center fielder Michael Bourn, who went 1-for-5 and got thrown out in a controversial play at second. “They hit the ball well tonight. There are going to be games like this sometimes.”

The Pirates, who were averaging a majors’-worst 2.33 runs per game, snapped a streak of 21 games with five or fewer runs, the longest such streak to open a season since the Brewers did it for 31 straight in 1972.

“They’re not a bad team, I’m telling you,” Bourn said. “Any team that can pitch, they’re always going to be in the game. And they have one of the better pitching staffs in the National League to me.”

The Braves managed only seven earned runs in 23 innings in four games against the Pirates starters, while striking out 27 times. The Braves struck out 10 times in 7 2/3 innings against McDonald.

Eric Hinske was a rare bright spot for the Braves, going 4-for-4, with a double and an RBI, in his second start of the year in right field after Jason Heyward sat out with a sore oblique. Four hits matched a career-high for Hinske, who last did it July 4, 2004 with the Blue Jays.

For the Braves, Minor was not the sharp and confident young pitcher he’d been in his previous three starts, all Braves wins. He gave up as many runs his first four innings on Monday – four – as he had in those previous three games combined.

“His command got a little bit erratic there and for me he couldn’t get any of his stuff over the plate,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “He had to come back over the plate and they capitalized on that. But he’s been so good; he’s allowed to have one of these outings.”

The pitch he’ll remember most is a first-pitch mistake to Pedro Alvarez, his former Vanderbilt teammate, who homered for the third time in a week to put the Pirates up 4-2.

Alvarez figured to be the only real home-run threat in the Pirates’ lineup – he has five homers, while the rest of the Pirates have seven. But Yamaico Navarro didn’t let it stop him from taking Minor over the left field wall for a two-run shot in the sixth and only the third home run of his career.

“They showed if I don’t make good pitches what happens to them,” said Minor, now 2-2 with a 4.68 ERA. “And tonight I really didn’t have any command of any pitches.”

The night had started well for the Braves, though it was with mixed emotions. Freddie Freeman ambushed McDonald with a two-run home run on the first pitch he saw in the first inning, his fourth of the year. It might have been good for three runs had Bourn not been called out at second base on a steal attempt, when it appeared his left leg was in safely.

The normally agreeable Bourn immediately reacted, arguing with second base umpire Kerwin Danley, before Gonzalez came out to act as a buffer. The run-in was the Braves’ second in as many days with this umpiring crew after Tim Hudson and Doug Eddings exchanged words Sunday afternoon, though both Bourn and Gonzalez said it never got close to an ejection.

“I wasn’t cussing at him or anything like that,” Bourn said. “I wasn’t using any foul language. I know when I’m safe and when I’m out. If I’m out, I’m not going to make an argument about it, I’ll take it. But three of the calls this year, I’ve been safe. I just want it to be right.”

19 comments Add your comment

ATL Sports Pessimist

April 30th, 2012
11:22 pm

Bourn is a stand up guy and a class act. We’ll bounce back, gotta down the evil Phillies

Dan Struggla

April 30th, 2012
11:25 pm

Can someone please tell Fredi to stop saying “Bourny”? Such an unnecessary nickname.

BraveFanfromVA

April 30th, 2012
11:28 pm

Send Minor down to AAA. Allowing 6 runs to a team that scores six runs in a week is unacceptable.

DaveinNEPA

April 30th, 2012
11:31 pm

There weren’t very many positives you could take from this one. Pretty bad all the way around.

Another tough lefty tomorrow.

PoonPounder

April 30th, 2012
11:42 pm

BraveFanfromVA, Your an idiot.

TChompKnowledge

May 1st, 2012
1:18 am

We are going to easily sweep the Phillies in this next 3 game series. They don’t have Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. Look how many runs they can score without them? Not too many! We can at least get 5 runs a game, so Philly is going to be in trouble! Their hitters are no match against our pitching rotation. I love this pitching rotation we have! It reminds me of the Glavine, Smoltz, and Maddux trio!

reckingball

May 1st, 2012
2:28 am

Got to beat the Phillies.
GO Braves!

PA Brave

May 1st, 2012
7:04 am

Chad FREAKING Durbin! ERA: 9.00! Why is he even on the team? We’ve got to have a veteran reliever who stinks!

bruce

May 1st, 2012
7:43 am

Eric Hinske good game dude.

old scout

May 1st, 2012
8:26 am

McCann in the middle of this line-up is killing the offense. If he has to play he should hit 7 or 8. Right now, he is the Braves 2nd best catcher.

Don

May 1st, 2012
9:05 am

Fact: Pitching is without question – the name of the game – the most important element in having a winning team.
Fact: In the 6 or 7 years since Leo left as Pitching Coach — of all the Starting Pitchers that the Braves have had in these 6 or 7 years – almost

Don

May 1st, 2012
9:21 am

Almost every Starting Pitcher in the large number of Starters that the Braves have had in the 6 or 7 years since Leo left as Pitching Coach – almost EVERY ONE OF THESE has ended up being injured.
The REASON that all the writers ignore this IS:
_____ (a) – We do not think that Pitching is important; (or)
_____ (b) – With all the Pitching talent the we have, even if all of these are injured and
and we end up wasting the opportunity to be competetive for years to come,
we will evetually develop some additonal pithing talent. (or)
_____ (c) – We do not agree with the fact that most pitchers, after seirious injurey, do not
come back to being effective. (or)
_____ (d) – We are under orders to ignore this and not make an issue of it.

Bier Breth

May 1st, 2012
10:16 am

I love this irony: QUOTE FROM PoonPounder: “BraveFanfromVA, Your an idiot.”

What does this demonstrate? That PoonPounder is in fact an idiot. PoonPounder, YOU’RE an idiot. Thank you.

duronimo

May 1st, 2012
11:15 am

First! …. First to say “cap tipping” today. Let’s tip our caps to the Pittsburg pitchers. Their mysterious snake ball (curves both ways) had us swatting at flies.

duronimo

May 1st, 2012
11:16 am

OK an “h” goes a the end of Pittsburg (h).

just sayin'

May 1st, 2012
11:23 am

McCann hasn’t had a hit in what seems like a week, and down to .230 for the season. Something wrong with him we’re not hearing about? If he’s going to remain in the everyday lineup, he needs to be moved significantly down in the order until he gets hot again. Heyward has been batting north of .300 from the #7 spot with no protection but Pastornicky. Batting order should look like this…
Bourn
Prado
Heyward
Freeman
Uggla
Jones
McCann
Pastornicky

BrandonLee49

May 1st, 2012
11:46 am

bringing in Durbin to let in 3 More Runs was not an improvement… FG !
Mcann will beak out soon enough, he always does.. he’s durable and a road warrior these othe Younger guys look up to… stop Bashing Mc’Cann !!!!
Freeman hit well, Hinske, and Bourn only got a bad break.. it happens… Don’t change the Game-plan over one Loss.

Virginia Brave

May 1st, 2012
1:03 pm

@ just sayin’, I actually don’t mind that lineup order. I think Heyward needs to be moved up and I like him and Freeman back to back. Doubt it will happen, though.

when aint got it you aint got it.

May 1st, 2012
5:50 pm

The Pirates had help. It’s name was Fredi Gonazalez. Who will Fredi help next. SOS, leave pitcher in way past their expiration while managing by 100 pitch loser rule.

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