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Offensive struggles continue as Braves drop opener to Pirates, 3-2

Atlanta's offense continues to scuffle mightily, and it bit the Braves in a 3-2 loss on Friday night.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Braves entered the weekend series against the Pittsburgh Pirates on the heels of an offensively challenged three-game losing streak. That trend unfortunately continued on Friday evening, as the offense scuffled on the way to a 3-2 loss in the series opener.

The scoring began on the Atlanta side, as the Braves struck first with a run in the second inning. Ryan Lavarnway was credited with an RBI after he walked with the bases loaded, but while the Braves claimed a 1-0 lead, they squandered a larger potential opportunity by leaving three men on base.

That missed chance would come back to bite Atlanta a bit, as the Pirates claimed a 2-1 lead on the strength of an RBI single from Pedro Alvarez in the fifth inning. Later in the frame, Braves starter Williams Perez was forced to exit the mound after being struck in the ankle with a batted ball, and while he didn't leave immediately, it was clear that the ankle became an issue. Prior to his exit, Perez navigated 4.2 innings while allowing only two runs, but it will be interesting to monitor his health progress following the game.

Fortunately, the Braves responded quickly with a run of their own to knot the game at 2-2 after six innings. That scoring play came when Juan Uribe deposited a pitch from Francisco Liriano over the center field wall, and that removed Perez from the "hook".

Still, Atlanta was unable to get over the hump in full against Liriano, who managed to cruise through seven innings while allowing only two runs. The left-hander did not boast his best "stuff" on this night, as evidenced by only three strikeouts, but the weak Braves lineup was unable to take full advantage.

After Uribe's tying home run, neither team was able to score again during the scheduled nine-inning contest. Notably, Pittsburgh's Jung Ho Kang made a baserunning gaffe in the ninth to end a potential rally that was initially caused by an inexplicable error by Kelly Johnson at first base. Jim Johnson completed two innings of scoreless relief (his first multi-inning showing since Opening Day) in the eighth and ninth, and there was free baseball in Pittsburgh.

The Braves went quietly in the top of the 10th (a recurring theme), but the Pirates did not return the favor. Andrew McCutchen led off the inning with a rope double against Jason Grilli, and after an intentional walk and a strikeout, Jordy Mercer ended the game at 3-2 with a double off the right field wall.

On the whole, it wasn't a miserable effort from the Atlanta Braves, especially on the mound. Perez wasn't as crisp as you would like, but the bullpen allowed just one run in five innings, and that is all that can be requested. Offensively, however, things were not as fantastic, with only Juan Uribe serving as a legitimate bright spot.

The Braves and Pirates will get together again on Saturday, and the visiting team will be looking to right the ship as the losing streak mounts.

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