ATLANTA -- The Braves were in an offensive skid to start their homestand with three straight losses of three runs or fewer. Dansby Swanson and Freddie Freeman did their best to change that on Saturday night.Following yet another strong outing from starter Kevin Gausman, the Braves stormed back against the
ATLANTA -- The Braves were in an offensive skid to start their homestand with three straight losses of three runs or fewer. Dansby Swanson and Freddie Freeman did their best to change that on Saturday night.
Following yet another strong outing from starter Kevin Gausman, the Braves stormed back against the Pirates' bullpen to pull off a thrilling 5-3 win at SunTrust Park. And with a Phillies loss to the Cubs, they extended their National League East lead to three games.
"It was one we really needed," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "We've had a couple really tough losses, tough ballgames the last couple days. That's big to come back from behind, kind of laying there dead in the water a little bit. Good fight for the guys."
The Braves could not manage a hit off Pirates starter Chris Archer until the sixth inning, when Swanson sneaked a ground ball off third baseman Colin Moran's glove for a double. Two batters later, Ronald Acuna Jr. drove him home for the Braves' first score of the game.
Things didn't look much better in the eighth, down by 2, with those lone two hits on the board and setup man Keone Kela in to pitch. But Swanson ignited the offense again with a leadoff home run to left field, his 14th of the season.
"All it takes is a spark," Swanson said. "You just saw that you get a little energy, and it keeps rolling. Hopefully that continues into tomorrow and the next few days. A spark of energy is great."
Pinch-hitter Lucas Duda continued the rally with a double to left -- his first hit with the Braves -- and pinch-runner Lane Adams came around to score on a wild pitch on strike three that left Ender Inciarte safe at first. A Freeman double, Nick Markakis single and Johan Camargo sacrifice fly later, and the Braves had their first lead of the game.
The lack of offense nearly spoiled another great outing from Gausman, who held the Pirates to three runs (one earned) over six innings. In the hot, muggy weather reminiscent of his days at LSU, Gausman touched 97 mph from the first to the sixth inning, and he was able to avoid much damage through the air despite garnering eight flyouts. The right-hander gave up a 435-foot home run to Gregory Polanco in the sixth, but the outing lowered his ERA in Atlanta to 1.66.
The Braves' bullpen did well to preserve Gausman's start, as Sam Freeman, recently activated Shane Carle and Jonny Venters each recorded two outs without allowing a hit. And finally, A.J. Minter shut down the ninth for his 12th save of the year, his 10th since taking over for the injured Arodys Vizcaino.
"Whenever you're able to get a surge of something positive going the right way, anything is possible," Swanson said. "We've talked about how hitting is contagious and ebbs and flows, and it just happened to be me tonight to get it rolling. But at the end of the day, I give so much credit to everybody because without Gausman's performance and Shane Carle, Sam Freeman, Jonny Venters, and A.J., without the pitching keeping us in it, we wouldn't have had a chance."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Gausman looked like he was on his way to another easy inning in the fifth when he elicited a soft grounder from Kevin Newman to second baseman Charlie Culberson with one on. However, Culberson tried a backhand flip to second that badly missed shortstop Swanson, putting both runners in scoring position. The error came back to bite the Braves when Starling Marte knocked both runners in on a two-out double off the wall two batters later.
"I thought [Gausman] was great, just like he was last time in Miami," Snitker said. "He's been nothing but nails for us. He kept us right there, and we kind of put him behind the eight ball in the one inning, but he did a great job."
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Pirates chose to challenge the play at the plate on Camargo's eighth-inning sacrifice fly to right field. The ball wasn't terribly deep, but Polanco bounced the throw home, and catcher Francisco Cervelli had to dive to try to nab Freeman's foot. After a two-minute, two-second review, the replay official determined that the play would stand, preserving the Braves' two-run lead.
"I knew it was a line drive, but you've got to go in that situation," Freeman said. "I think the parachute came off a little bit, and I was able to get to home just in time."
HE SAID IT
"It's September 1, and we got one. It's nice. When you go to Spring Training every year, that's all you can ask for, and here we are with meaningful games and a three-game lead. This is what we play for. It's a lot of fun. The crowd was having a lot of energy tonight, so hopefully we can give them more to cheer about [Sunday]." -- Freeman, on playing meaningful games in September
Julio Teheran faces the Pirates for the second time in three starts in Sunday's series finale at 5:05 p.m. ET at SunTrust Park. On Aug. 22, he held the Bucs to one run on two hits over seven innings with five strikeouts. Teheran has only issued six walks in his last four starts after averaging over three walks per outing in his previous 14 starts. Nick Kingham will make a spot start for Pittsburgh.
Ben Weinrib is a contributor to MLB.com.