PITTSBURGH -- Manager Fredi Gonzalez knew he was rolling the dice by sending his only remaining catcher off the bench to pinch-hit in the eighth inning, but the potential negative consequences were trumped by his desire to give Evan Gattis a chance to add to his growing legend.
Gonzalez's decision proved to be genius, as the only swing Gattis took on Thursday night resulted in a two-run homer that gave the Braves a lead they'd preserve in a 6-4 win over the Pirates.
"He just keeps getting better," B.J. Upton said. "Not a lot of young guys are able to go out, play every day and produce the way he's been able to produce. This was his first off-day in a while, and to come off the bench and to hit a pinch-hit home run like he did today says a lot. A lot of guys don't know how to handle that situation, especially in crunch time."
Showing no signs that his only previous pinch-hit appearance came while playing for Rookie-level Danville three years ago, Gattis looked at two sinkers out of the strike zone from right-handed reliever Jared Hughes, then drilled the third over the left-field wall.
"I felt it was a good matchup against him and what he has," Gattis said. "That's what I was looking for, what he was throwing. I'm glad I got to see two pitches before that for balls. That helps. I was fortunate and lucky. I'm glad I got it on the barrel enough."
Gattis homered in his first career at-bat and now has a game-winning home run in the only pinch-hit appearance of his so-far magical big league career. The 26-year-old rookie catcher has homered five times through his first 43 career at-bats and added to the wonder of a story that includes a stint as a janitor during a four-year absence from baseball.
"That's a pretty cool story, if you dig into it a little bit," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Unfortunately, I didn't dig the swing too much."
One day after bidding adieu to a 10-game winning streak, the Braves belted four home runs, accounting for all of their offense, and overcame Julio Teheran's inability to preserve any of the three leads he was handed through his shaky five-inning effort.
B.J. Upton hit the third pitch of the game by Pirates starter Jeff Locke over the left-field wall for his ninth career leadoff home run. Locke also surrendered a two-run homer in the third to Chris Johnson, who is batting .438, and a fifth-inning solo shot to Justin Upton, who now has a Major League-leading nine homers through his first 58 at-bats with the Braves.
Justin Upton has experienced an incredible start to his first season playing alongside his older brother. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he is the first Braves player to hit nine home runs in the first 15 games of a season.
"To be able to be here and see it live, it's a pretty cool thing to watch," said B.J., who signed a five-year contract with the Braves in November. "But he's still little brother, so I'm not going to give him too much credit."
Gattis and Upton have combined for 14 of the 29 home runs the Braves have totaled while winning 13 of their first 15 games this year.
This powerful surge enabled the Braves to overcome the struggles of Teheran, who looked more like the fastball pitcher that he was when he posted a 5.08 ERA with Triple-A Gwinnett last year. The 22-year-old right-hander issued a four-pitch walk that helped the Pirates tie the score in the first inning and later surrendered two home runs, including Pedro Alvarez's fourth-inning shot, which traveled an estimated 448 feet and hit high off the green wall beyond the center-field fence.
Teheran, who has allowed at least four earned runs in each of his first three starts, allowed the Pirates to tie the score in the fifth on doubles by Travis Snider and Garrett Jones. But the young hurler ended his seventh career start by escaping a bases-loaded jam in the fifth.
"Obviously, as a competitor, he would like things to be a little bit different," B.J. Upton said. "But at the same time, he's keeping us in ballgames, and that's all we can ask."
After Anthony Varvaro kept the Pirates scoreless for two innings, Andrelton Simmons opened the decisive eighth by drawing a walk and advancing to second on Gerald Laird's sacrifice bunt.
This prompted Gonzalez to call Ramiro Pena back from the on-deck circle and insert Gattis with the understanding that if his team did not take a lead and Laird was forced to exit later, utility infielder Blake DeWitt -- who has never served as a catcher at the professional level -- would have to crouch behind the dish.
But Gattis took care of things with one mighty swing.
"That same situation in the fifth or sixth, you might not do it," Gonzalez said. "But in that situation in the eighth, with the game like it was, you take a shot at it."