Bethancourt's walk-off homer lifts Braves
ATLANTA -- Christian Bethancourt's opposite-field walk-off homer preserved Julio Teheran's strong effort and enabled the Braves to snap a frustrating three-game losing streak with a 5-4 win over the Pirates on Saturday night at Turner Field.
Bethancourt hit the first pitch thrown by Vance Worley, who had entered to pitch the ninth for the Pirates. The slicing shot -- Bethancourt's first career homer -- stayed just inside the right-field foul pole.
"I was sure it was just gonna keep curving, and it never started curving," said Worley, a former starter who had not been scored on in his first three relief appearances. "I thought I made a good pitch to him -- cutter, down and away -- and he somehow got enough barrel on it."
Teheran entered the eighth inning having retired 11 straight batters going back to Andrew McCutchen's game-tying, two-run homer in the fourth inning. But after surrendering two straight one-out singles, Teheran begrudgingly gave the ball to Jim Johnson, who allowed Gregory Polanco to tie the game with a two-out, two-run single.
Bethancourt began his three-hit night with a RBI single in the fourth inning and later added a seventh-inning leadoff single that positioned him to score on a Cameron Maybin RBI single that chased Pirates starter Jeff Locke with Atlanta leading 4-2.
"I've been feeling more confidence," said Bethancourt, who entered Saturday with a .179 batting average. "I've been working in the cage with the hitting coach and during [batting practice]. You know, trying to get back on track and finally it seems like it's showing up. So I'm happy with it."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Teheran's effort squandered: Despite allowing four runs and five hits over a season-high 7 1/3 innings, Teheran was as impressive as he has been this season. His body language made it evident he did not approve of Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez's decision to remove him in the eighth. Then of course his anger grew as Johnson extended the recent woes of the Atlanta pen, which had posted a 9.69 ERA in the previous 11 games. More >
Locke can't shut the door: Locke got the first two outs in the bottom of the fourth after McCutchen had drawn him even, but couldn't finish off a key shutdown inning. He walked Jonny Gomes, who stole second uncontested before scoring on Bethancourt's single.
Cam's contributions: After Bethancourt's leadoff single in the seventh, Maybin capped his own multi-hit performance with the RBI single that gave Atlanta a two-run lead. The rejuvenated center fielder also singled and scored on Freddie Freeman's sacrifice fly in the third inning.
"I was going to be out there for long relief, if we didn't score." -- Worley, whose outing turned out to be the shortest possible -- one pitch
"We've just got to find a way to win those close games. I feel like we've been on the other side of some of those this month. So, hopefully this is a start to turn those kind of games around and find a way to win them." -- Chris Johnson said of the Braves, who squandered leads in the fifth inning or later in each of their previous three games, all losses
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In a strange twist, the loss preserved the longest stretch of victories by Pirates starters in a quarter century. Pittsburgh's rotation is still on record as having been credited with the team's last 15 wins -- its longest such run since the 1990 staff picked up 16 straight team wins, April 26-May 27.
The Braves are now 10-3 when their starting pitcher completes at least seven innings.
Pirates: Four days shy of the second anniversary of his Major League debut, Gerrit Cole will seek his 30th win when he faces the Braves in Sunday's 1:35 p.m. ET series finale at Turner Field. Cole has a 6-1 career record in June, starting with an 8-2 decision over the Giants in that June 11, 2013 debut.
Braves: Atlanta will counter with Alex Wood, who has allowed three runs while completing 22 innings over his past three starts. Wood attributes his recent success to mechanical changes that have made his two-seam fastball and changeup more effective.
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