ATLANTA -- After encountering their latest first-inning deficit on Friday night at Turner Field, the red-hot Pirates claimed a 10-8 victory with the help of a Starling Marte home run that added to the Braves' recent bullpen woes.
Marte's sixth-inning, two-run homer off Luis Avilan provided a 6-4 lead for the Pirates, who have won 12 of their past 14 games, despite trailing in the first inning in four of their past five. Pittsburgh added three eighth-inning runs against Trevor Cahill to create the cushion that was needed when the Braves tallied a pair of eighth-inning runs against Tony Watson. Mark Melancon induced a game-ending double play from pinch-hitter Joey Terdoslavich, stranding the potential tying runs to pick up save No. 17 this season.
"Another gritty effort. We keep getting after it, we were able to continue to find ways to add on against their bullpen with some big swings," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We needed every run we got out there tonight. It was a bit of a boat race for both teams."
Both starting pitchers -- Pittsburgh's Charlie Morton and Atlanta's Williams Perez -- battled command issues while allowing four runs over five innings. Perez surrendered Neil Walker's three-run homer in the fifth inning before making an early exit that further exposed the Braves' bullpen, which has posted a 9.69 ERA over the past 11 games.
The Braves have lost three straight, despite scoring at least six runs in each game and eight in the past two.
"I love the battle of our guys offensively," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We put the ball in play and find the holes. We're scoring runs and running the bases well. It's my job to figure out how we're going to get to the lead late in the game."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Marte connects, not a moment too soon: It certainly mattered to Morton. Marte, snapping an 0-for-21 drought, unloaded on a tiebreaking homer three batters after Morton was out of the game but just in time to get him the win -- the Bucs' 15th straight win credited to their starting pitcher. More >
Thin 'pen: Though he has few reliable options in his bullpen, Gonzalez opted to pull Brandon Cunniff after he retired two batters in the sixth. This set up a lefty-lefty matchup for Avilan, who promptly walked Gregory Polanco before allowing Marte's homer. It set the stage for a two-inning appearance from Cahill, who worked a perfect seventh before surrendering five hits during the three-run eighth. More >
Cervelli begins and ends it: There was a nice symmetry to the Pirates' 10-run offense. Francisco Cervelli drove in the first run, in the second, and the 10th run, in the ninth. In between, the catcher had two other singles for the second four-hit game of his career. More >
Wasted offensive performance: The Braves went 5-for-18 with runners in scoring position and stranded five runners over the final three innings. But the offense did its job, matching the Pirates with 14 hits. The same can't be said of Perez, whose recent command woes finally caught up to him. The walk to Marte to begin the fifth was the ninth Perez has issued in a span of 48 plate appearances. Walker hit his three-run shot later in the inning, but the walks led to the bullpen's early entrance. More >
"It almost turned into a Spring Training game out there tonight." -- Walker, on 11 pitchers combining to allow 18 runs, 28 hits and 10 walks
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
• The Pirates' "Dream Outfield" lined up consecutively in the batting order for only the second time this season, and topped the lineup for the first time (Gregory Polanco, Marte and Andrew McCutchen batted 2-3-4 on May 25). The trio made the alignment click, combining to go 6-for-12, with six runs and four RBIs.
• The Braves are 10-5 when scoring six runs or more this season. They were 133-5 in these such games from 2012-14.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Marte showed off his arm in the fifth inning -- but he couldn't catch either Freddie Freeman or second-base umpire Mark Carlson off guard. Freeman ripped a leadoff drive down the left field line and Marte retrieved it quickly and threw a laser to second base, as Freeman slid in safe. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle challenged the call, which was upheld on replay review and on an ensuing fielder's choice grounder turned into the run that briefly tied it at 4.
WHAT'S NEXT Pirates:Jeff Locke is eager to see whether the work he's done in two side sessions since his rough start in San Diego will translate to game action Saturday, when he faces the Braves in the 7:10 p.m. ET middle game of the series. Locke has been working on command of his fastball -- and of himself, for the mental toughness to stay away from big innings.
Braves:Julio Teheran will attempt to get back on track Saturday night at Turner Field. After Teheran's most recent start in San Francisco, Gonzalez admitted he was concerned about the young hurler, who has battled inconsistent command for more than a month.