Late-inning heroics not enough vs. Braves

May 23rd, 2017

ATLANTA -- The Pirates had not played a game this deep into the night -- into the morning, technically -- in 34 years, not since June 20, 1983, when the last out at Three Rivers Stadium was recorded at 2:04 a.m. But there they were a few minutes after 1:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday, having survived a three-hour, 12-minute rain delay and a Braves comeback with their own late rally.

The late-night/early-morning heroics of and put the Bucs in position to win a wet, wild game at SunTrust Park. But they weren't enough. Closer Tony Watson gave up a two-out, game-tying double to before Matt Adams lined a walk-off single to left. Six hours and 15 minutes after they began playing, the Pirates were dealt a 6-5 loss by the Braves.

"The whole night stinks, to be honest with you. Sitting around for that long and playing into the night -- now the next morning -- it's one of those things," Mercer said. "It stinks, especially being on the other side of it now. It's part of it, though."

After six innings and roughly two hours of play, the Pirates held a 3-2 lead. Then came the rain.

Aware there would be an opportunity to play at some point, the Pirates and Braves waited more than three hours for the skies to clear and the field to dry. Mercer bounced like a pinball from the dining room to the clubhouse to the weight room to the trainer's room back to the dining room and the clubhouse couches.

"Just something, really, to ease your mind a bit," Mercer said. "Because you know you're going to be here for a little while."

When play resumed, singled home a run off and Matt Kemp drove in another against in the seventh. Pittsburgh entered the ninth trailing by a run, and Atlanta closer Jim Johnson quickly found himself with two outs and runners on first and second.

Freese did not start Tuesday, but he was called into action in the wee hours Wednesday. The veteran drew a walk on six pitches, loading the bases for Mercer, who had homered to right in the sixth inning.

With two outs and two strikes, Mercer fouled back two pitches that catcher could not hold. Still alive, Mercer pulled a curveball into shallow left field, driving in two runs and restoring the Pirates' lead.

"You've got to have fun with it. You've got to enjoy it," Mercer said. "You've got to enjoy the moment. ... Look for a pitch up and make something happen."

Their path to that moment wasn't ideal, but the Pirates were where they wanted to be, with Watson protecting a lead. But the Braves were not done. Markakis doubled on a 92-mph sinker, and Adams swatted the game-winner to left.

"The game ended up all over the place," manager Clint Hurdle said. "At the end of the day, we were one run behind them."

While most will remember the long delay, late-game drama and lead changes, Hurdle pointed out that the Pirates had several opportunities to create a bigger lead. grounded into a pair of key double plays. Danny Ortiz left two men on in the ninth. Overall, they stranded 13 runners.

"We had a couple innings where we could've added on some runs," Hurdle said. "Those things have a way of biting you a little bit. But the fight was there. … We'll continue to play. We'll continue to fight."