ATLANTA -- With less than two months remaining in this season, the Pirates can't afford to have any more road trips prove to be as frustrating as the one that concluded on Thursday night, when Ryan Vogelsong's impressive comeback was tarnished by an error that allowed the Braves to score two seventh-inning runs and claim a 5-2 victory.
Jeff Francoeur's two-out RBI single off Felipe Rivero capped the decisive two-run seventh for the Braves, who have won six of their past nine games. Francoeur would not have been given this opportunity to deliver this game-winner had third baseman Jung Ho Kang not dropped a throw from Rivero after Adonis Garcia was seemingly hung out to dry between second and third base. Garcia scored on the play and made a winner of Tyrell Jenkins, who limited the Pirates to one run despite issuing four walks over six innings.
The game's start was delayed by heavy rainfall by one hour and 16 minutes.
"We've been really aggressive with our baserunning," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "Guys are coming out of the box looking for two and taking the extra base and being alert with balls in the dirt. There has been some really good baserunning. Guys aren't taking any routine ball for granted, and it's nice to see."
Making his first start since suffering multiple facial fractures when he was hit by a pitch on May 23, Vogelsong limited the Braves to one run over six innings. The veteran hurler was perfect in five of his six innings and surrendered each of the three hits charged to him during the third inning, which began with Ender Inciarte extending his hitting streak to 15 games with a leadoff single. The Pirates scored two runs or fewer three times while going 1-5 during this six-game road trip that began in Milwaukee.
"I thought we hit a number of balls hard, but we still weren't able to connect dots and plate runs," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Actually, we hit the ball very well early. The first two double plays we hit into, both balls were directly at people, hard. But the continuity of the at-bats, just stringing some of those together, we haven't been able to do that."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
From "Oh, no" to "Go, go go!": With runners at first and second and one out in the seventh inning, Garcia took off for third base as Rivero came set from the stretch. The left-handed reliever's throw easily beat Garcia, but Kang didn't secure the shoulder-high throw that bounced off his glove and deflected toward left field, allowing Garcia to race home in uncontested fashion.
"I was thinking, he's out and then he went in [to third base]," Francoeur said. "When you play hard and do those things, the other teams are kind of on their heels, and they have to make a play. They didn't make a play, and we took advantage of it. It was a good team win. Everybody contributed tonight." More >
A remarkable comeback: Although he received a no-decision on Thursday, Vogelsong shined in his first game back from the 60-day disabled list. The right-hander pitched two perfect innings to open the contest before running into trouble in the third. But after giving up Erick Aybar's infield RBI single, he struck out Freddie Freeman and got Matt Kemp to fly out to center to escape a bases-loaded jam. The two outs represented the first of 11 straight batters the 39-year-old retired before exiting the game after six impressive innings.
"This is all I know," said Vogelsong when asked about his motivation to return quickly from the injury. "Obviously, I've been doing this a long time, and I don't know much else other than baseball. It's kind of scary when you think about what you might have to do if you can't play anymore. I was pretty determined to get back and not let this thing beat me." More >
Marte's nice grab: With two outs and the bases loaded in the third inning, Kemp drove Vogelsong's first pitch to deep right-center field. It appeared as if the Braves would score at least two runs on the likely extra-base hit, but Starling Marte sprinted over from his spot in center field and made the inning-ending catch just as he crossed over the warning track.
"Marte shows the ability to do things that make you go, 'Wow,'" Hurdle said. "He's got finishing speed. You see it on the bases when he steals bases. You see it at times on a triple or scoring from first to home, those extended periods where he can stretch out and do things. In this ballpark, people here got to watch a guy do it for a long time in Andruw Jones. If a ball had a hump in it off the bat, it came down in Andruw's glove. Marte's got that kind of ability when balls get a hump in the air, wherever he's playing in the outfield, to go get them."
Wildly effective: An Aybar error and the last of Jenkins' four walks allowed the Pirates to put two on with none out in the sixth inning. But the threat was quieted with a Marte strikeout and ended by right fielder Nick Markakis' diving grab of Josh Harrison's sinking liner. Jenkins has allowed just one earned run while totaling 12 innings over his past two starts. But he has also issued eight walks while recording just six strikeouts. "A.J. called for a changeup [against Marte in the sixth], and I knew the whole time I had to execute that pitch," Jenkins said. "It's a moment where you've got to man up and make that pitch. You can't get that far and then just hand it away. Luckily, I made that pitch and got out of the inning."
"He just keeps swinging that bat, kinda like the guy they saw last year. That's good to see. The kid has worked really hard, and he's playing great defense. It's just really nice to see the bat come alive." -- Snitker on Inciarte, who has hit .386/.419/.404 during his 15-game hitting streak
WHAT'S NEXT Pirates: Pittsburgh will return to PNC Park for a seven-day, six-game homestand, starting with Friday's series opener vs. the Reds. Jameson Taillon will take the hill for the Pirates, looking for his first home win in his young career. The right-hander has thrived on the road, going 2-2 with a 2.63 ERA, but has posted a 4.50 ERA in his first four starts at PNC Park. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. ET.
Braves: Atlanta will travel to St. Louis to begin a three-game series against the Cardinals on Friday at 8:15 p.m. ET. Joel De La Cruz will be making his fourth career start. He lasted just 4 1/3 innings against the Phillies on Sunday, but he learned he was starting approximately 12 hours before throwing his first pitch. .