PITTSBURGH -- Freddie Freeman homered twice and Julio Teheran impressed over seven strong innings. But just when it looked like the Braves were going to halt their first-week frustrations, they found themselves focusing on the extended struggles their defense and bullpen experienced during Sunday's 6-5, 10-inning loss to the Pirates at PNC Park.
"There have been just a number of things we've done the first week of the season that you can't do and expect to win games," Braves manager Brian Snitker said after his team blew a two-run eighth-inning lead and a 10th-inning advantage while seeing their record drop to 1-5, courtesy of Starling Marte's walk-off homer against Jose Ramirez.
Throughout most of this latest loss, there wasn't much reason to think Ramirez would even make an appearance. Freeman's seventh-inning homer provided a 4-2 lead and allowed him to join Marcus Giles (2003) and Chipper Jones (2000) as the only players in Braves history to record two homers and a stolen base in a four-hit game.
"Freeman had a day," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Luckily, fortunately for us, we had a better day."
Teheran did his part as two unearned runs served as the only blemish during his strong seven-inning performance. He has completed at least seven innings while not allowing an earned run in seven of his past 27 starts. But when closer Jim Johnson issued two walks in a game-tying ninth, the Braves' ace found himself with his fourth no-decision within this series of seven starts.
Snitker lifted Teheran after 87 pitches because he didn't want to push him too hard in the season's second start and because he wanted setup man Arodys Vizcaino to enter a clean inning. Vizcaino's inning was anything but clean, however, as he hit Josh Harrison with a pitch and surrendered a pair of hits, including Marte's one-out single, which scored Harrison when left fielder Jace Peterson overran the ball.
Had Peterson not made the error, the Pirates would still have been trailing by two runs. Instead, they faced just a one-run deficit when Andrew McCutchen followed by grounding into a double play.
"[Vizcaino] got some of his fastballs up in the zone a little bit, but even so right there we were probably going to get somebody doubled off third because they weren't scoring that run," Snitker said in reference to Harrison being initially held at third base. "The guy from first had his head down and was going to run into an out. But we couldn't catch a ball in left field. So that hurt."
Much of this first week has hurt for the Braves, who have seen their bullpen surrender multiple runs in three of the first six games. The defense committed a pair of errors during each of three games played in Pittsburgh, and by the time Sunday's game was over, it was apparent why veteran pitcher R.A. Dickey had used the word "sloppy" to describe how the team has played during this first week.
"You can go out and take a thousand ground balls at three o'clock in the afternoon, and at seven o'clock is when you have to make the plays," Snitker said. "We've taken a gazillion ground balls the past two months. It's just about making plays, and we've got to make them better than we are."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.