ATLANTA (AP) — Andrelton Simmons’ confidence was lagging after batting practice.
Three hits and his first experience in the middle of a game-ending celebration did wonders for Simmons’ mood.t4
Simmons hit a game-ending double off Mark Melancon in the 10th inning, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a 5-4 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday night.
Simmons said he was trying too hard when he left the bases loaded with a groundout to end the eighth, and he adjusted in the 10th inning.
“I was trying too hard to end it the first time I had a chance,” Simmons said. “The last at-bat I was just trying to make sure I made good contact. I made the adjustment to go the other way and fortunately I did it.”
Melancon (1-1) walked Dan Uggla to open the 10th. B.J. Upton struck out after fouling off an attempted sacrifice bunt. Melancon then hit pinch-hitter Reed Johnson with a pitch, bringing Simmons to the plate.
Simmons sent a long fly ball to the gap in right-center. Uggla jogged calmly around third base with the winning run before the Braves raced to celebrate with Simmons near second base. Jason Heyward hoisted the shortstop, who said he didn’t know how to react.
“It was weird,” Simmons said. “Seeing everybody run and chase me down was kind of an awkward feeling. I didn’t know what to do.
“They are big guys,” he added. “I made sure I protected myself.”
Simmons, who also reached with a walk, raised his batting average from .248 to .256. Upton hit his second homer in three days, Heyward had two hits and Uggla had two hits and two walks.
Simmons said those are all good signs for the Braves’ lineup.
“It’s nice to see everybody contributing and it’s going to show how good this whole lineup can really be,” he said, adding he used a patient approach after batting practice “didn’t go like I wanted it to.
“I just tried to battle and see the most pitches that I could. That helped a lot,” Simmons added.
Anthony Vavaro (3-0) pitched a perfect 10th. Four Braves relievers combined to allow one hit in four scoreless innings in the Braves’ fourth straight win.
Gaby Sanchez and Pedro Alvarez hit homers for Pittsburgh.
The Braves came close to ending it in the ninth. After Justin Upton’s broken-bat single to left field, Freddie Freeman hit a deep fly that center fielder Andrew McCutchen caught at the wall. Grilli walked Brian McCann before striking out Ramiro Pena.
The Braves left the bases loaded in the eighth. Tony Watson walked Chris Johnson. Pena, running for Johnson, moved to second base when Watson walked Dan Uggla. B.J. Upton popped out before Pena and Uggla advanced on Watson’s wild pitch to pinch-hitter Evan Gattis. Watson then issued an intentional walk to Gattis, loading the bases before Simmons grounded out to end the inning.
The Pirates wasted an opportunity against Craig Kimbrel in the ninth.
McCutchen, who had a two-run double in the third inning, hit Kimbrel’s first pitch in the ninth for a single up the middle. With one out, Russell Martin walked. Kimbrel struck out Travis Snider on three pitches and ended the inning on Alvarez’s fly to center field.
McCutchen’s two run double in the third gave the Pirates a 3-0 lead.
Freeman cut the lead to 3-2 when he reached out and slapped a two-run, opposite-field double past Alvarez at third base in the third.
Former Braves draft pick Jeff Locke left the game in the sixth inning with a 4-2 lead after giving up a two-out single to Uggla. B.J. Upton tied the game with a two-run homer to center field off right-hander Ryan Reid.
“You’re looking at what you feel is your best matchup at the time and it didn’t work out,” said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle.
Locke gave up six hits and three runs in 5 2-3 innings. He matched his season high with seven strikeouts.
“I thought everything was working pretty good,” Locke said. “I felt pretty good the whole time. There was never any at-bat where I really felt out of it or anything like that. I know I had a couple walks but there were times where I could afford to put that guy on.”
Minor allowed four hits and four runs, two earned, in six innings.
Martin made his first career start in right field. Martin, the starting catcher in Monday’s opening game of the series, has appeared in three games at third base this season but no games in the outfield.
The Braves traded Locke to the Pirates on June 3, 2009, as part of a package that sent outfielder Nate McLouth to Atlanta. The Pirates also acquired right-hander Charlie Morton in the deal.
NOTES: The Pirates are off Thursday before opening at series at the Chicago Cubs. Hurdle said he plans to use Francisco Liriano, A.J. Burnett and Locke as his starting pitchers in Chicago. … Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he plans to start Gattis on Wednesday to give McCann a rest in the day game following Tuesday night’s game. … The three-game series ends when Braves RHP Julio Teheran faces Pirates LHP Wandy Rodriguez. The game will end the Braves’ eight-game homestand.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.