Braves’ bullpen battered again in 10-8 loss to Pirates
ATLANTA (AP) — Braves starter Williams Perez lasted only five innings, and that burden proved too great for Atlanta’s beleaguered bullpen.
Four relievers combined to allow six runs as Atlanta failed to keep pace with the streaking Pirates in Friday night’s 10-8 loss to Pittsburgh.
Atlanta’s bullpen has given up 13 runs in the last three games — all losses.
“I’ve got to figure it out,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “Whatever combination works.”
Neil Walker hit a three-run homer, a towering shot deep into the right-field seats off Perez in the fifth inning. Starling Marte’s two-run drive off Luis Avilan (2-1) gave the Pirates a 6-4 lead in the sixth.
Trevor Cahill allowed three runs and five hits in the eighth. Nick Masset gave up a run in the ninth.
The spotlight is on the bullpen, but the short outing by Perez added to the problem.
Perez, a rookie right-hander making his fourth start, threw 101 pitches. He allowed four runs on five hits and five walks and left with the game tied 4-all.
“When your starter doesn’t go deep in ballgames, you kind of get exposed a little bit there,” Gonzalez said.
Cameron Maybin, who had three of Atlanta’s 14 hits, said the hitters have to provide encouragement for the pitchers.
“I’ve been on the opposite end of the thing, where starting pitching, bullpen pitching has been lights out and they get no run support,” Maybin said. “Our job is to continue to pick these guys up, pat them on the backside and tell them we’ve got them.”
Pittsburgh overcame a season-high four errors. Francisco Cervelli drove in two runs with four hits, matching his career high.
“A lot of times when you have a three-run homer and a two-run homer, your odds of winning are going to be pretty good,” Walker said.
The Pirates, coming off a three-game sweep at San Francisco, have won four straight and 12 of 14.
Former Braves pitcher Charlie Morton (3-0) allowed four runs, three earned, in five innings.
The Braves made things interesting in the ninth.
Pirates closer Mark Melancon gave up a one-out single to A.J. Pierzynski in the ninth before being hurt by his own throwing error. Melancon fielded Todd Cunningham’s grounder, but his wild throw to second base set up Pedro Ciriaco’s run-scoring single to left field.
Joey Terdoslavich, making his season debut after missing the first two months with a sprained left wrist, hit into a double play to end the game. Melancon earned his 17th save.
Pittsburgh took the lead against Avilan, who entered with two outs in the sixth. Following a single by Gregory Polanco, Marte lined a homer into the front row of the right-field seats for a 6-4 lead.
Polanco had two singles and a walk and stole two bases.
Before the game, Braves outfielder Eric Young Jr. was designated for assignment.
Young was hitting .169 with no homers, five RBIs and three stolen bases. He became a little-used backup after Maybin won the starting job in center field.
Pirates: 3B Josh Harrison was rested before entering the game in the eighth. Jung Ho Kang started at third base and Jordy Mercer was the shortstop.
Braves: 2B Jace Peterson has a bruised left thumb and isn’t expected to be available to hit before Sunday. Gonzalez said Peterson has no structural damage and is available as a pinch-runner or late-inning defensive replacement. Ciriaco started for Peterson.
Pirates: LHP Jeff Locke, who faces the Braves on Saturday night, is 3-3 with a 5.34 ERA after winning his first two decisions. He is 1-1 with a 6.20 ERA in four career starts against Atlanta. He allowed six runs over four innings in a loss at Turner Field last year.
Braves: RHP Julio Teheran (4-2) will look for his third straight win against the Pirates. Teheran is 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA in four career games, including three starts, against Pittsburgh.