PITTSBURGH -- Left-hander Alex Wood quieted the Pirates into the eighth inning on Sunday as the Braves downed Pittsburgh, 2-1, to snap a five-game losing streak.
Nick Markakis' RBI single in the fifth and Jace Peterson's solo homer in the seventh were all the help Wood needed to snap a three-decision losing streak. Wood allowed five hits in 7 1/3 innings, not issuing a walk while striking out eight. He allowed three runs or fewer for the 13th time in his 15 starts.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Johnson preserves gem: After Neil Walker's one-out double in the eighth chased Wood, right-handed reliever Jim Johnson preserved the impressive start by quickly retiring Josh Harrison and Pedro Alvarez. Wood pitched around consecutive singles to begin the seventh and matched his season high with eight strikeouts. He concluded three of his first four strikeouts with his curveball, which proved quite effective during the early innings. More >
Locke makes early exit:Jeff Locke held the Braves hitless through three innings, worked out of trouble in the fourth, gave up one run in the fifth -- and was gone from a 1-0 game in the sixth. His pitch count was up to 94, yet it still seemed to be an early dismissal -- especially since his spot led off the bottom of the sixth, an ideal pinch-hitting situation.
"I was trying to be too fine. I need to be more aggressive in the strike zone," said Locke, who went to a three-ball count to five of the first nine batters -- walking three of them -- to preclude him from working deeper into the game.
Peterson's timely power: Peterson's seventh-inning leadoff homer provided a necessary insurance run for the Braves, who saw the Pirates cut the deficit to one run when Jordy Mercer drilled a two-out RBI double in the ninth. Left fielder Eury Perez exited with a sore torso after colliding with Cameron Maybin while attempting to catch Mercer's drive just in front of the left-center field wall. Former Pirates closer Jason Grilli recovered to end the game with a Gregory Polanco strikeout.
Budding rally a dud: After being held to a pair of Mercer singles through six, the Bucs put a quick move on Wood when McCutchen and Starling Marte drilled his first two pitches of the seventh for sharp singles. The lefty put a quick stop to that -- after Francisco Cervelli bunted the runners up, Mercer's whiff and Sean Rodriguez's infield pop pulled the plug. More >
"Cervelli bunted on his own, for a base hit," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who called it a "good baseball play. I don't have a 'don't bunt' sign."
"[Perez] checked out OK. You going to ask me how I am? I was a little nervous. I thought we were going to lose two players [Perez and Maybin] out there." -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, on the ninth-inning collision More >
"His ball-strike ratio is something we would like to get in a better place." -- Hurdle, on Locke, who through two innings had delivered 23 balls and 21 strikes
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Peterson has recorded 15 extra-base hits in his past 106 at-bats. He totaled four extra-base hits through this season's first 150 at-bats.
Locke, drafted by the Braves in 2006, and outfielder Gorkys Hernandez, acquired in a Minor League trade by the Braves in '07, shared two seasons in Atlanta's Minor League system and were packaged in the '09 deal to Pittsburgh; on Sunday, they played together in the same game for the first time.
WHAT'S NEXT Braves:Shelby Miller will take the mound when Atlanta begins a three-game series against Washington on Tuesday night at Turner Field. Miller has posted a 0.85 ERA in five career starts against the Nationals. First pitch is set for 7:10 p.m. ET.
Pirates: Following Monday's off-day -- their final one prior to the All-Star break -- the Bucs kick off a brief, three-game Interleague trip with Tuesday night's 7:08 p.m. ET series opener in Detroit's Comerica Park. Gerrit Cole will pit his lifetime 6-1 Interleague record against the Tigers.