Pirates 13, Braves 2
PITTSBURGH (AP)—The Pirates’ hitting was very good for a change, even if their timing wasn’t. On a day Ian Snell didn’t figure to give the Atlanta Braves many runs, Pittsburgh’s offense finally broke out.
Snell took advantage of the unaccustomed support to limit Atlanta to two runs over seven innings, and Freddy Sanchez drove in three runs to lead the Pirates to a 13-2 victory Sunday that stopped the Braves’ five-game winning streak.
The 13 runs and 18 hits were easily season highs for the Pirates, who scored as many as six runs only five times in their first 35 games and previously hadn’t scored more than seven. They were coming off perhaps the worst effort of a runs-scarce season, a 9-2 loss Saturday in which Atlanta’s Chuck James held them without a hit for 6 1-3 innings.
They bounced back from that effort to chase starter Anthony Lerew (0-1) while opening a 5-0 lead by the fourth inning. Sanchez had RBI singles in the first, fourth and sixth innings, Ronny Paulino added a two-run single, and a two-run throwing error by third baseman Pete Orr aided a three-run fourth.
“It was good to look up there and see a five-spot,” Snell said. “It was amazing to see.”
Especially when the Pirates, who entered hitting .235, gave him eight more runs after that.
“I hope this was out coming out party,” Jason Bay said. “Everybody relaxed and had a little bit of fun. I hope it definitely means something moving forward.”
Sanchez, last year’s NL batting champion with a .344 average, hasn’t found any consistency after missing most of spring training with a knee injury. Three hits pushed his average to .262.
“We know we’re not where we should be and where we want to be, so it was good for us to come out and get some hits,” Sanchez said. “It was huge for us. Hitting can be contagious, and we did a good job of hitting with runners in scoring positron. A game like this can be a big confidence booster.”
Snell (3-2) has pitched better than his record, allowing more than two earned runs only once in eight starts. He struck out seven, walked two and was in serious trouble only once, giving up two runs in the fifth on a walk, two singles and Willie Harris’ RBI double before getting Edgar Renteria to ground out and strand runners on second and third.
Snell didn’t allow a homer for the sixth time in eight starts—he has given up only two in 53 innings—and has lasted seven innings in all but two starts.
Manager Jim Tracy could tell as early as Saturday that Snell was ready to pitch. Tracy looked down the bench late in that game, with the Pirates down by a big margin, and saw a determined look on Snell’s face.
“I don’t like to lose,” Snell said. “We can’t fall too far behind (in the NL Central) because then we can’t dig ourselves out. We’ve got a good team here. … Hopefully, we’ll keep rolling like this.”
The day before, Tracy and hitting coach Jeff Manto called the position players together for a meeting designed to relax them and get them to take better at-bats.
“I’d like to think this is the start of us being the offense we’re capable of being,” Tracy said.
Lerew, pitching before 40 friends and family members from his central Pennsylvania home in Dillsburg, allowed 11 of the 21 batters he faced to get on base in his second career start. Lerew left after giving up five runs, seven hits and three walks in 3 2-3 innings.
“Maybe I should just tell them to watch me on TV,” Lerew said. “I think I put a lot of pressure on myself.”
Pirates third baseman Jose Bautista sprained his left ankle unsuccessfully trying to score on a fly ball in the sixth. X-rays showed no fracture. He could walk without assistance in the clubhouse by the end of the game and was listed as day to day.
The Pirates had lost six of eight and 10 of 14, and they were 1-6 in their previous seven home games.
The Pirates are 12-3 the last two seasons when Snell pitches at least seven innings. … The Pirates’ previous season highs for hits were 13 in nine innings and 14 in extra innings. … Braves 3B Chipper Jones sat out for a second day in a row with sore wrists, thumbs and a quadriceps injury, but could return Monday in Washington. … Atlanta outscored Pittsburgh 13-3 in winning the first two games of the series. … The Braves were denied their first three-game sweep of the Pirates since June 1-3, 2001, in Pittsburgh. … The Braves lost for only the second time in eight games, trimming their lead over the Mets to a half-game in the NL East.