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Pirates tally 12 runs to hold off Braves

May 17, 2016

PITTSBURGH -- After starting the night with a nine-run lead, the Pirates wound up needing the back end of their bullpen to close out a 12-9 win over the Braves on Tuesday at PNC Park.The Bucs' lineup did its part with a season-high 21 hits and a season-high-tying 12 runs.

PITTSBURGH -- After starting the night with a nine-run lead, the Pirates wound up needing the back end of their bullpen to close out a 12-9 win over the Braves on Tuesday at PNC Park.
The Bucs' lineup did its part with a season-high 21 hits and a season-high-tying 12 runs. Andrew McCutchen, Gregory Polanco and Francisco Cervelli powered the offense with three hits apiece. But starter Juan Nicasio permitted five runs (three earned) in five innings, Ryan Vogelsong was charged with three runs and Arquimedes Caminero gave up a homer to Mallex Smith, the only batter he faced in the seventh.
"They weren't stopping, so we needed to continue as well to create separation, keep a gap," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Everybody threw something in from one through nine. It was definitely a team effort, and we needed all of it."
That led the Pirates to summon their top three relievers -- Neftali Feliz, Tony Watson and closer Mark Melancon -- to finish a game they once led 9-0. Hurdle had told Melancon they were going to do "everything they could to stay away from him" after using him on back-to-back days. But there Melancon was, picking up his 13th save at the end of the night.
"The perception of the game in front of you is like playing a golf course. It's the hole you're playing that day," Hurdle said. "Expectations more often than not lead to resentments. Just let the game play. Manage it accordingly."

In his first inning on the job, Braves interim manager Brian Snitker watched the Pirates pound out seven runs on seven hits off rookie right-hander Aaron Blair. Pittsburgh added two more runs in the second inning, but Atlanta began to climb back in the game. Smith hit the first of his two homers, both two-run shots to right field, in a three-run third inning. The Braves and Pirates each put up a pair of runs in the fifth; Atlanta tacked on another in the sixth and three more in the seventh against Pittsburgh's bullpen.
"I know [bench coach Terry Pendleton] said, 'Snit, the record is not good, but these guys don't quit, they just keep fighting,'" said Snitker, who will manage the rest of the season after Fredi Gonzalez was dismissed. "That's exactly what they did. It was really cool to see ... I liked what I saw. There was energy in the dugout. I wish we would have won the game."

Quick strike: The Pirates sent 11 men to the plate to face Blair in their seven-run first inning. Nicasio picked up his first RBI since 2014 with a single to right field, John Jaso doubled home two more and McCutchen punctuated the inning with an RBI single to left. It was the first time the Pirates scored seven runs in the first inning at home since plating nine against the Brewers on July 20, 2010. More >
"It's fun to watch," Hurdle said. "They kind of feed off one another."

Squandered opportunities: Along with benefiting from Smith's first multi-homer game, the Braves tallied season highs in hits (15) and runs (nine). But they also squandered two prime opportunities to complete their comeback bid. Kelly Johnson grounded into a double play with the bases loaded to end the three-run third inning. The Braves loaded the bases again in the sixth with one out. But Vogelsong ended this threat by striking out Freddie Freeman and inducing A.J. Pierzynski's inning-ending groundout.
No. 1 for No. 59: After striking out in his Major League debut on Monday, Alen Hanson picked up his first big league hit in the fifth inning. Pinch-hitting for Nicasio, Hanson knocked an infield single past diving third baseman Gordon Beckham. The Bucs' No. 10 prospect showed off his speed, going first to third on Ian Krol's errant pickoff throw. Hanson scored his first run two batters later, coming home on McCutchen's single to right field.
Hanson kept the baseball, planning to send it to his mother -- who was so excited by the news of his Major League debut that she accidentally hung up the phone on him -- as a gift.
"This has been a long promise that I've had to my mom, to play in the big leagues. To be able to send her that as a gift, to say, 'Mom, I made it,'" Hanson said through interpreter Mike Gonzalez. "I don't think she's going to hang up. ... She's ready for the phone call."

"You guys forget I managed in Colorado for eight years." -- Hurdle, asked about managing such a high-scoring game
Blair became the first Braves pitcher and the 20th in MLB history to allow at least nine earned runs and nine hits while completing 1 1/3 or fewer innings.
The Braves have lost three of the past four games in which they have tallied at least nine runs and 15 hits. Before this four-game stretch, they had been 281-19 in such games in Atlanta history (dating back to 1966).
Braves:Julio Teheran will be bidding for his first win of the season when this four-game series continues on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. ET. Teheran has posted a 1.44 ERA and limited opponents to a .202 batting average over his past five starts.
Pirates: Left-hander Francisco Liriano will try to get back on track after a rough start against the Cubs. Liriano, Pittsburgh's Opening Day starter, is 3-2 with a 4.99 ERA and a National League-leading 23 walks in seven starts.
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.