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Polanco backs Locke as Pirates beat Braves

May 19, 2016

PITTSBURGH -- Left-hander Jeff Locke threw seven strong innings, Gregory Polanco led another complete performance by the Pirates' lineup and the Bucs beat the Braves, 8-2, on Thursday night to clinch a victory in their four-game series at PNC Park.Forty games into the season, the Pirates are 22-18. It's the

PITTSBURGH -- Left-hander Jeff Locke threw seven strong innings, Gregory Polanco led another complete performance by the Pirates' lineup and the Bucs beat the Braves, 8-2, on Thursday night to clinch a victory in their four-game series at PNC Park.
Forty games into the season, the Pirates are 22-18. It's the third time since 1993 that Pittsburgh reached the quarter pole with a winning record, having last done so in 2013 (23-17) and 1997 (21-19).
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Locke bounced back from a rough start against the Cubs and worked seven full innings for the second time in his last four starts, holding the Braves to two runs on six hits while striking out six. Unlike Wednesday night, Pittsburgh's bats backed up their starter, pounding out eight runs on 11 hits -- including three from leadoff man John Jaso and Jordy Mercer and two from Polanco.
"That's the part that feels good, able to eat up some innings for the guys," Locke said. "[Catcher Chris Stewart] and I were on the same page the whole time. ... Had a good idea what we wanted to do, and he's smart back there."
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Polanco flashed rarely seen power in the second inning, launching an 80-mph curveball over the left-center-field wall off Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz -- who gave up five runs (four earned) in three innings. The two-run homer, Polanco's fifth of the season, traveled 409 feet from home plate the opposite way and into the stands with an exit velocity of 105 mph, according to Statcast™.
"He did it in the Minor Leagues. He's done it before," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Polanco. "It stands out in this ballpark when you can do it out there. That's a big reach."

Polanco's barrage against Atlanta's pitching staff continued in the fifth, when he smashed a leadoff triple high off the right-field wall and scored on a sacrifice fly by Jung Ho Kang.
"When you give up those multiple runs real quick, it's tough to come back," Braves interim manager Brian Snitker said after watching Foltynewicz surrender six of his seven hits with two outs.

Welcome back, Dad: Fresh off the paternity list following the birth of his daughter, Tiana, Pirates left fielder Starling Marte knocked a two-run single to right field in the first inning against Foltynewicz to open the scoring. One of the Pirates' most productive hitters thus far this season, Marte missed the first three games of this series to be with his family.

Two-out trouble: Foltynewicz retired two of the first three batters he faced before hitting Kang with a 1-2 fastball. The first of Tyler Flowers' two passed balls set the stage for Marte to spark Pittsburgh's two-run first with a bloop single to shallow right. Then in the second inning, the Braves right-hander allowed three consecutive two-out hits, including Polanco's two-run homer. Foltynewicz had allowed two earned runs in 15 innings over his two previous starts.
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"A lot of hits came with two strikes and they were all up in the zone," Foltynewicz said. "If they're in the bottom of the zone, things might have been different. I just really wanted to get the team a win tonight, and I think I just tried to do too much and tried to throw the ball too hard."
• Boscan makes debut in fourth stint with Pirates

Fourth time's the charm: After making three quick trips in and out of Pittsburgh last season without throwing a pitch, reliever Wilfredo Boscan finally got on the mound at PNC Park. Called up Thursday afternoon to replace left-hander Cory Luebke in the bullpen, Boscan tossed a perfect eighth inning and a scoreless ninth to seal the victory.
"That was really nice. Waited a long time for that debut," Hurdle said. "He's made a lot of trips here for that debut, and that was quick and efficient."

Power surge:Jeff Francoeur notched the first of the two consecutive doubles surrendered by Locke to begin the fourth inning and then opened the sixth inning with his second home run of the season and of the series. The six home runs the Braves hit during this four-game series matched the total they have compiled over 19 games at Turner Field this season.
"You've got to imagine that was the most extra-base hits we had in a series this year, so that's a positive," Francoeur said. "We're going to [Philadelphia], it's a good place to hit. Hopefully, we can carry it there this weekend and do some damage there and score some runs. You definitely have to like how we're driving the ball better."
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"First thing I told him was, 'That's not how mine went. That's for sure.'" -- Locke, on Boscan's impressive debut
"Mr. Polanco is doing a really good job. He's doing a great job. He's playing baseball really well." -- Jaso, on Polanco's impressive start to the season at the plate

Andrew McCutchen's RBI single in the second inning was his 612th career hit at PNC Park, tying former Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson for the all-time hits record at Pittsburgh's ballpark along the Allegheny River. McCutchen already owns the record for career homers (76) at PNC Park.
Braves:Matt Wisler will take the mound when Atlanta begins a three-game series in Philadelphia at Citizens Bank Park on Friday at 7:05 p.m. ET. Wisler has pitched into the eighth inning in each of his past three starts, including his May 10 loss to the Phillies.
Pirates: Coming off arguably the best start of his career, Gerrit Cole will take the mound to begin the Pirates' three-game weekend series against the Rockies on Friday at 7:05 p.m. ET at PNC Park. Cole threw eight shutout innings against the Cubs on Sunday.
Watch every out-of-market regular season game live on MLB.TV.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for since 2001.