Braves get to Liriano early in win over Bucs

Braves get to Liriano early in win over Bucs

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Rotation candidate Jhoulys Chacin held the Pirates to one run over 3 1/3 innings, Nick Swisher and Jeff Francoeur each recorded two hits and the Braves beat the Pirates, 7-3, at McKechnie Field on Monday afternoon.

"I felt fine out there today," Chacin said. "I was able to make pitches when I needed to, just a lot of deep counts, so my pitch count was up and I couldn't finish my [allotted] innings. But it was nice that I didn't give up a lot of two-out base hits or any two-out RBIs like what happened in my last outing."

Swisher drove in a pair of early runs with two RBI doubles off Pirates Opening Day starter Francisco Liriano. His first-inning drive to right field scored shortstop Erick Aybar, while his third-inning knock to left drove in Adonis Garcia, who also tallied two hits.

"Chacin pitched good, had his cutter working," Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We swung the bats early, got some runs. Swisher got two doubles, drove in two. Francoeur got a couple of RBI singles and [Hector] Olivera hit the ball hard, so it was a good day for the Braves."

Chacin building case for rotation spot

Liriano battled through the rest of the third, giving up an RBI single to Olivera and another to Jace Peterson. Olivera has a seven-game hitting streak, and he's hit safely in 15 of his 16 games.

Liriano immediately cut back into Atlanta's lead, launching a solo home run to right field off Chacin.

"I think I got lucky on that pitch," Liriano said. "Try to put a good swing on it, and I got a little lucky."

Scheduled to pitch five innings, Liriano reached his designated pitch count after recording the first two outs of the fourth. Minor League right-hander Daniel Bard then gave up three hits, two walks and a balk without recording an out. Reliever Jorge Rondon recorded the final out of the inning.

Liriano allowed four runs on seven hits and a walk while striking out five.

"I wasn't locating the fastball. I was all over the place, up and down," said Liriano, who has one spring start to go before facing the Cardinals on April 3 at PNC Park. "That's what we're here for, to get better at things we need to work on, be working in the bullpen. Hopefully the next start will be a lot better."

Up next for the Braves: Mike Foltynewicz will continue his bid for a spot in the rotation Tuesday when he starts against the Astros in Kissimmee, Fla., in a 1:05 p.m. ET matchup. The veteran right-hander, who underwent surgery in September to remove part of a rib after developing blood clots in his pitching arm, made his first appearance Friday against the Nationals, allowing two runs on one hit (a Ryan Zimmerman home run) with a strikeout and a walk in two innings. Houston counters with righty Mike Fiers.

Up next for the Pirates: After their final off-day Tuesday, the Pirates will return to McKechnie Field on Wednesday to face the Orioles at 1:05 p.m. ET. Left-hander Jeff Locke, officially competing for a rotation spot with Ryan Vogelsong and Juan Nicasio, will start for Pittsburgh. Closer Mark Melancon and left-hander Cory Luebke are also scheduled to pitch.

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.