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Braves offense stays hot but pitching once again falters in third straight loss

The Braves offense continued to put up plenty of production, but the bullpen and a questionable decision by Fredi Gonzalez once again cost the Braves as they lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates 10-8.

The Braves continue to narrowly avoid wins
The Braves continue to narrowly avoid wins
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta was looking to bounce back from a disastrous end to the west coast trip on Friday night when they faced the red hot Pittsburgh Pirates. Unfortunately, the exact same things that plagued the Braves in Arizona killed their chances for a win tonight. The bullpen.

The Braves got off to a quick start with a 1-2-3 inning in the top half from Williams Perez. Cameron Maybin led off the bottom half with a single. He then stole second base and took third base from a wild pitch by Charlie Morton. An Andrelton Simmons single brought home Maybin to grab an early 1-0 lead. Freddie Freeman then singled but was retied from a Nick Markakis double play for the first two outs of the inning. After Juan Uribe walked, a A.J. Pierzynski ground ball got by third basemen Neil Walker to bring home Simmons for a 2-0 lead.

The Pirates got one run back in the second inning. Jung-ho Kang drew a one-out walk and advanced to third base from a Pedro Alvarez single. Francisco Cervelli followed up with an RBI single to make it 2-1. Perez retired the next two batters to escape the jam.

Perez managed to escape another jam in the third inning when Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte reached base with nobody out. Perez got Andrew McCutchen and Walker to fly out and Kang grounded out to shortstop to end the rally.

In the bottom half of the third, Nick Markakis drew the first of his two walks to leadoff the inning. After Juan Uribe struck out, A.J. Pierzynski oddly attempted to bunt to no avail. On an 0-2 count, he drove a double to left-center field to bring home Markakis for a 3-1 lead.

Pittsburgh struck back in a big way in the top of the 5th inning. Marte walked to leadoff the inning, and McCutchen then singled. With nobody out and two on, Neil Walker drove a mammoth shot into the right field seats to give the Pirates a 4-3 lead. Perez struck out the next three batters to end his night.

The Pirates wouldn't hold the lead long as Freddie Freeman wristed a ball to the empty left side of the infield. Freeman hustled into second base for a double. The play was reviewed but not overturned. Markakis followed up with a single to put runners on first and third with nobody out. Uribe then grounded into a fielder's choice to tie the game at 4.

Then things went south in the sixth because - well - because the bullpen came in. Brandon Cunniff did his job. He retired the first two batters quickly and it all looked swell. Then Fredi Gonzalez made a decision. With the bases empty and nobody out in the sixth inning, Fredi decided to pull Cunniff to bring in Luis Avilan against the left handed Polanco. The decision to mix and match that early in the game is weird enough, but the best part is the pitcher's spot was due up next in the bottom half, and the two hitters after Polanco were the talented right handed duo of Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen. Polanco singled against Avilan to completely ruin the "matchup advantage." Gonzalez was then forced to keep Avilan in because of the already thin bullpen and Marte hit an opposite field 2-run home run to give the Pirates a 6-4 lead. It was just another example of poor bullpen management by Fredi Gonzalez.

A Juan Uribe RBI single in the seventh inning tacked off one run to make it 6-5 heading into the eighth inning.

Trevor Cahill continued on in the inning after a 1-2-3 seventh inning. Things didn't go as well. Cahill allowed four singles, a double, and three runs in the inning to give the Pirates a 9-5 lead.

Atlanta bounced right back in the bottom half. Todd Cunningham and Pedro Ciriaco led off with singles followed by a Jonny Gomes pinch-hit strikeout. Cameron Maybin then continued his red hot RISP hitting with an RBI single to cut the lead to 9-6. An Andrelton Simmons ground out scored Ciriaco to then cut it to 9-7. Freeman walked to put the tying run on base with Markakis at the plate. He grounded out to end the rally.

Nick Masset came on to pitch the ninth inning. Josh Harrison doubled and was brought home by another RBI single from Francisco Cervelli to make it 10-7 headed to the bottom of the ninth.

But as we know, the Braves have tended to make things interesting this year. Pierzynski singled with one out. Cunningham then hit a ground ball to pitcher Mark Melancon for what should've been a game ending double play. Instead, Melancon threw the ball into centerfield and the Braves had runners on first and third with one out. Ciriaco was the next batter and singled to left field to cut the lead to 10-8 with two on. Joey Terdoslavich pinch hit in his first appearance of the season and unfortunately hit into a game ending double play.

It was once again a strong effort from an offense that was ultimately let down by the worst bullpen in baseball. The Braves have now lost three straight games despite scoring at least six runs in all three contests. They were 31-2 (!) when scoring at least six runs last season.

Source: FanGraphs

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