Pirates 6, Braves 5
PITTSBURGH (AP)—If the Pittsburgh Pirates had known they would do so well after trading nearly all their top players, they might have done it a lot earlier.
The Pirates haven’t lost since trading star Brian Giles on Tuesday, including a three-game sweep of the Marlins. They also have dealt third baseman Aramis Ramirez, center fielder Kenny Lofton, top starter Jeff Suppan and relievers Mike Williams and Scott Sauerbeck over the last five weeks.
“It’s different guys contributing every night,” said Rob Mackowiak, who hit a three-run homer off 18-game winner Russ Ortiz. “I’m sure a lot of people thought we’d struggle to win many games the rest of the season after trading Brian Giles, but we’re doing OK.”
Giles returned to Pittsburgh on Friday—Marcus Giles, that is. Brian Giles’ younger brother had three hits and two RBIs as the Braves rallied to tie it at 5 on Chipper Jones’ RBI single in the ninth after trailing 5-2.
Will Cunnane (0-1), the Braves’ fourth pitcher, then came on to walk Jack Wilson to start the ninth ahead of Jason Kendall’s ground out. Carlos Rivera, hitless in his previous 11 at-bats, singled with one out but Wilson fell down as he rounded third, preventing him from scoring.
“Everybody was jumping up and down when they saw Andruw Jones’ throw was off line, but I don’t know what happened. He just slipped,” Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said. “It looked like it was going to cost us.”
After Reggie Sanders walked to load the bases and Jason Bay flied out, Hernandez singled up the middle to win it. Cunnane, just up from the minors and scoreless in six previous relief appearances, was forced to pitch the ninth because the Braves are currently without four injured relievers, including closer John Smoltz.
“I have confidence in myself,” Cunnane said. “I like to say that nine times out of 10 I’ll get out of that.”
Julian Tavarez (3-3), trying for an infrequent three-inning save, pitched a perfect seventh and eighth before giving up the tying run in the ninth. Chipper Jones’ RBI single made him 9-for-12 against the right-hander.
The Braves’ comeback prevented Ortiz from losing for only the second time in 14 starts. He left trailing 5-2 following a 1 hour, 16 minute rain delay in the top of the sixth.
The Pirates’ Salomon Torres also was lifted after five innings and was in line to win as a starter for the first time in six starts since May 17, but the Braves closed to 5-4 on Giles’ two-run single in the sixth off Brian Boehringer.
Sheffield had an RBI single in the Braves’ first before Torres avoided a potentially bigger inning by retiring three straight batters with runners on first and second and a run in.
Bay, acquired from San Diego on Tuesday in the Giles trade, started the Pirates’ three-run second with a walk and Hernandez doubled. Mackowiak then hit his fifth homer and his fourth in eight games since being recalled from Triple-A Nashville on Aug. 19.
“That pitch is the only one I would take back,” Ortiz said. “That was pretty much the difference in the game. It was a big mistake pitch down the middle and he jumped on it.”
Mackowiak had 16 homers as a part-time player last season, but was demoted to the minors on June 8 after homering only once in the first two months of this season.
Ortiz had allowed three or fewer earned runs in eight consecutive starts until giving up nine in 11 2-3 innings over his last two starts.
The Braves cut it to 3-2 in the fifth with the help of a Torres wild pitch ahead of Chipper Jones’ run-scoring grounder. But the Pirates scored twice in their half of the inning on Matt Stairs’ RBI double and Bay’s run-scoringsingle.
Ortiz, 6-0 in eight career starts against Pittsburgh, gave up seven runs and five hits and walked four, two intentionally. … Ortiz has yielded 12 hits and nine runs in 10 innings in two starts against Pittsburgh this season. … Wilson went 2-for-4 to extend his hitting streak to a career-high 16 games, starting the two-run sixth with a single. … Bay is 4-for-9 with two RBIs and three runs scored in three games since being dealt to Pittsburgh. … This isthe fifth time this season the Pirates have won four in a row.