PITTSBURGH -- Bryse Wilson impressed in his Major League debut and Nick Markakis once again enhanced the value of Freddie Freeman's contributions. But without a defensive gem center fielder Ender Inciarte and catcher Kurt Suzuki combined to produce, the Braves may have suffered another disheartening loss.A few hours after his
PITTSBURGH -- Bryse Wilson impressed in his Major League debut and Nick Markakis once again enhanced the value of Freddie Freeman's contributions. But without a defensive gem center fielder Ender Inciarte and catcher Kurt Suzuki combined to produce, the Braves may have suffered another disheartening loss.
A few hours after his defense drew rave reviews from Braves manager Brian Snitker, Inciarte delivered a lead-preserving throw to the plate that proved significant in Monday night's 1-0 win over the Pirates at PNC Park.
"It's a good feeling," Inciarte said. "I think you can compare that to hitting a home run in a key situation. It's also like robbing a home run. It's a lot of fun."
Having blown a pair of ninth-inning leads while being swept by the Rockies this past weekend, the Braves savored the opportunity to once again feel good at the end of a game. But as they moved a full game ahead of the second-place Phillies in the National League East, they weren't able to exhale until Inciarte made his throw and Dan Winkler pitched a scoreless ninth in place of closer A.J. Minter, who is dealing with lower back soreness.
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"That was the difference in the game right there," Markakis said of the play Inciarte and Suzuki combined to make after Brad Brach departed with two outs in the seventh inning and Adeiny Hechavarria on second base.
With Corey Dickerson coming to the plate, Snitker called upon left-hander Jesse Biddle, who surrendered a single to center and then benefited from the aggressive approach of Inciarte, who grabbed the ball and unleashed an accurate 95.7-mph throw that bounced into Suzuki's glove.
"Hechavarria had a great jump, and he got there quick," Inciarte said. "I wasn't expecting it to be that close, but Suzuki was able to catch the ball and tag him as quick as he could."
Adhering to the restrictions catchers have faced since "The Buster Posey Rule" -- Rule 6.01(i) -- was put in place before the 2014 season to protect catchers from collisions, Suzuki caught Inciarte's throw in front of the plate and quickly snapped his left arm back in time to apply the tag just before Hechavarria touched the plate. Home-plate umpire Larry Vanover's ruling stood after the Pirates challenged the call.
"It's kind of a lost art to [catchers] ... with the advent of the sliding lanes and not blocking the plate," Snitker said. "It makes it difficult. It used to be as a catcher, you could position yourself for a good throw. Now, you're always reaching because you've got to give [baserunners] so much."
Pirates starter Chris Archer exited after four innings because of left leg discomfort that developed after he took an awkward swing while striking out in the third inning. But the Braves never added to the lead gained when Freeman doubled and scored on Markakis' two-out single in the first inning.
With Inciarte displaying one of the tools that has helped him capture consecutive Gold Glove Awards, the Braves secured a win for Wilson, a 20-year-old righty who was called up to the Majors on Monday and worked five effective innings.
Wilson, who escaped a fifth-inning threat by getting Dickerson to ground into a double play, held Pittsburgh to three walks and three hits while striking out five. At 20 years, 243 days old, Wilson became the youngest starting pitcher on record to win a 1-0 game in his MLB debut.
"We've got a lot of young people here," Inciarte said. "It's fun. They're kids still. They're coming here young, and they're performing and helping us win big games."
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When Minter allowed three runs with two outs in the ninth inning of Saturday's loss to the Rockies, there was no mention of the back discomfort he has felt over the past week. But Snitker couldn't keep this secret when he gave the ninth inning to Winkler, who pitched around Francisco Cervelli's leadoff single on the way to notching his second career save.
The Braves are hopeful Minter will be available within the next couple of days.
"We'll know more tomorrow when he comes [to the stadium]," Snitker said. "He could be available tomorrow. But he wasn't today. We'll re-evaluate him tomorrow."
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The Pirates have gone 2-3 while allowing one run in each of their past five games. Monday marked the Braves' third 1-0 win of the season, their highest total since they notched four such victories in 2014.
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Wilson appeared to have earned his first career hit with a fourth-inning line drive that was 97.5 mph off the bat. But despite recording a sprint speed of 27.6 feet per second (the MLB average is 27.0 ft./sec.) Wilson was unable to avoid the forceout right fielder Gregory Polanco recorded with a 97.1-mph throw.
Righty Kevin Gausman (7-9, 4.22 ERA) will take the mound when the Braves and Pirates resume their series on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. ET. Gausman will be pitching with an extra day of rest and looking to win three consecutive starts for the first time this season. Pittsburgh will counter with Ivan Nova (7-7, 4.26 ERA), who has a 1.69 ERA in three career starts against Atlanta.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.