PITTSBURGH -- After anxiously accepting the midseason transition from a cellar dweller to a postseason contender, Kevin Gausman digested the analytical advice the Braves provided and then determined it would be in his best interests to ditch the windup.
"Any time you change anything as a Major Leaguer, there's always a big question mark in your head about whether it's going to work or not," Gausman said. "I've had success in the big leagues before coming over here. There was a part of me that was a little hesitant. But I just tried to put all my rocks in one basket. I just jumped head-first right into it."
Three weeks later, the Braves are certainly pleased they committed much of their non-waiver Trade Deadline focus on Gausman, who provided yet another stellar outing during Tuesday night's 6-1 win over the Pirates at PNC Park. The rejuvenated right-hander provided eight scoreless innings on a night when his manager, Brian Snitker, was working with a thin bullpen.
"I was hoping for him to go as deep as he could," Snitker said. "We had some good options in the 'pen. We were staying away from a couple guys. But it didn't hurt [those options] to not pitch either."
While producing a 2.00 ERA through the four starts made since being acquired on July 31 from the Orioles, Gausman has accounted for two of the five occasions a Braves pitcher has completed at least eight innings this year. His first such effort was produced when he silenced the Brewers on Aug. 10, the first game he decided to pitch solely from the stretch.
His decision to alter his approach was made as he completed a side session aimed toward lessening the frequency with which he was flying open during his delivery. The results have been realized with the display of better fastball command and a more consistent slider, a pitch that had plagued him in the past.
"Overall, I think it made everything better," Gausman said. "I think I'm more consistent. Fastball command has definitely been a lot better. It's easier to throw the ball [in] the zone when I want to."
As the Braves solidified their spot atop the National League East by claiming a second straight win over the Pirates, they gained all they needed when Dansby Swanson began his first career multi-homer game with a two-run shot off Ivan Nova in the fifth inning. Swanson added a seventh-inning two-run homer off Michael Feliz.
Nova was perfect through the first three innings, but after making a mistake on the first-pitch fastball thrown to Swanson, he was unable to match Gausman, who limited the Pirates to one hit through the first five innings and then escaped a bases-loaded threat in the sixth.
"[Gausman] has been phenomenal," Swanson said. He has the ability to be on the attack and fill up the strike zone with multiple pitches and keep [opponents] off balance. But at the same time, when he stays in the strike zone, I think it keeps everybody engaged. So, the defense that gets played behind him is because he is able to keep us in rhythm."
Having spent the first four months of the season with an Orioles team destined for a 100-loss season, Gausman has certainly savored the chance to play a key role for a team determined to make a run into the postseason.
"This is a fun team to play for, especially right now," Gausman said. "They're playing well. It's a fun place to come to work every day. It's a little different than where I've been this season. It was frustrating being over there." <p.></p.>
<p.>MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
With two on and one out in the sixth inning, Gausman fielded Adam Frazier's sharp comebacker and threw to second base to begin what had the potential to be an inning-ending double play. But after breaking toward the ball, second baseman Ozzie Albies did not stop his momentum before bumping Swanson, preventing the second baseman from making a throw to first base. </p.>
"It was kind of a tough read and a tough play because of the way it was hit," Swanson said. "[Albies] was coming to catch it, and Gausman stabbed it. His momentum was taking him to the bag, and I was supposed to be covering. So, just the timing of it all made it look a lot worse than it was. We were fortunate we were able to get one out."
Gregory Polanco followed with a walk after drilling a ball foul past the right-field foul pole. But Gausman quickly composed himself and left the bases loaded by getting Josh Bell to hit a grounder that Swanson fielded before vaulting off second base to record the out and avoid the sliding Polanco.
"[Gausman] is pitching exactly how we had hoped when we got him," Snitker said. "He was really, really good tonight. Any time we can get eight innings out of a starter, that's a great day for us."
Braves catcher Kurt Suzuki exited after his left elbow was struck by Clay Holmes' 93.7 mph fastball during the ninth inning. Suzuki underwent X-rays and was scheduled to also undergo a CT scan Wednesday morning. The Braves will wait until Wednesday to simultaneously announce the results of both exams.
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Albies showed his tremendous range when he lunged toward center field to snare Bell's two-out grounder in the fourth and then made a strong throw to first base to record the out.
"If he doesn't win a Gold Glove [Award], I don't know who will," Snitker said.
Julio Teheran will take the mound when the Braves and Pirates conclude a three-game series Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. ET at PNC Park. Teheran has not allowed an earned run over his past 20 2/3 innings against Pittsburgh. The Pirates will counter with Trevor Williams, who has a 0.75 ERA over his past six starts.