Harrison, Walker homer as Bucs rally, then fall to Braves
Worley settles in after five-run first, retiring 13 straight in one stretch
By Adam Berry
BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Braves jumped out to a big lead in the first inning and beat the Pirates, 7-5, on Thursday afternoon at McKechnie Field.
After the Pirates chipped away at a five-run deficit and eventually tied the game at 5 in the eighth inning, Jonny Gomes led off the ninth with his first Braves homer, a blast to left field off lefty Clayton Richard. Later in the inning, Jesus Flores singled home Chris Johnson to make it 7-5.
Atlanta began the game with four straight singles off Pittsburgh starter Vance Worley and drove in another pair of runs on consecutive RBI groundouts. Johnson capped off the rally with a two-run homer to left field.
But Worley recovered from the rocky first, which included a line drive off his right foot. The right-hander retired 15 of the last 17 batters he faced, including 13 in a row without a ball in play leaving the infield.
"I think they can handle the inside pitch a little better than other clubs. As you know, we attack," Worley said. "I just made the adjustment and went away and had a little more success."
Worley, seemingly the favorite for the final spot in the Pirates' rotation, gave up five runs on seven hits and struck out three over six innings.
The Pirates didn't let the Braves' big lead last long, as third baseman Josh Harrison launched a leadoff shot over the wall in left field in the first.
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen, no longer sporting his trademark dreadlocks, drove in Neil Walker with an RBI single in the third.
Catcher Francisco Cervelli drove in shortstop Jordy Mercer in the fourth on a double to left, and Walker made it a one-run game by taking Rodriguez deep left to start the fifth.
Rodriguez, looking to lock up a spot in the Braves' Opening Day rotation, allowed four runs on eight hits while striking out three.
In the eighth, a Josh Outman wild pitch allowed Pirates pinch-runner Gorkys Hernandez to score the tying run. Pittsburgh had a chance to take the lead, but Starling Marte was tagged out in a rundown between third and home on a Pedro Alvarez fielder's choice, then Cervelli was called out on a close play at first to end the inning.
Braves catcher Christian Bethancourt, playing for the first time since March 17 following a bout with the flu, caught five innings and went 1-for-3 at the plate.
Up next: Left-hander Jeff Locke, the other half of the Pirates' fifth-starter competition, will take the mound as the Bucs take on the Twins at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET on an exclusive webcast on pirates.com. Relievers Antonio Bastardo and John Holdzkom are also slated to pitch for Pittsburgh.
Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.