By The Sports Xchange
ATLANTA — Atlanta manager Brian Snitker is willing to go along with some unorthodox base-running decisions if it means a win. All he could do was chuckle about the risky choice made by Adonis Garcia, which led to the deciding runs.
Garcia turned a base-running gaffe into the go-ahead run in the Braves’ 5-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday at Turner Field.
The Atlanta third baseman walked with one out in the seventh inning and took second on Ender Inciarte’s single. Garcia then wandered off second base against left-handed reliever Felipe Rivero and inexplicably took off for third.
“I don’t think we have that in our playbook,” Snitker said.
Rivero calmly threw to third, well ahead of Garcia, but Pittsburgh third baseman Jung Ho Kang had the ball bounce off the end of his glove for an error and roll behind him. When Garcia saw Kang tumble to the ground, he raced home with the go-ahead run.
“The throw is right there,” said Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle. “You can’t ask for a pitcher to execute the play any better. He steps off the rubber, he squares up to third base and he throws the ball. The ball is right over the base. He just didn’t catch the ball.”
Said Snitker: “Maybe it stunned him. Literally he was looking at him. It worked. Maybe we’ll put that in in spring training.”
The Braves tacked on a run when Jeff Francoeur delivered a two-out, two-strike RBI single.
Another error by Kang in the eighth inning opened the door for two more unearned runs. With Antonio Bastardo pitching, Kang failed to field Erick Aybar’s routine grounder. Aybar stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly to left by Nick Markakis. Matt Kemp, who had been intentionally walked, later scored on Garcia’s double.
The winning pitcher was reliever Hunter Cervenka (1-0), who earned his first major league victory. Cervenka induced the only batter he faced to ground into a double play — one of three turned by Atlanta.
Reliever Chris Withrow allowed one run in the eighth on a solo homer by David Freese, his 11th of the season. Jim Johnson pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his seventh save.
The losing pitcher was Rivero (0-4), who allowed two unearned runs on two hits and one walk in his only inning.
Atlanta’s Tyrell Jenkins pitched around trouble throughout his six-inning start. He allowed three hits and walked four, but gave up only one run. The rookie has allowed two or fewer runs in four of his five major league starts and lowered his ERA to 4.33.
“Tyrell just keeps pitching,” Snitker said. “He never gives in. His command and stuff was probably not as good as he’s had, but he never gives in.”
Pittsburgh’s Ryan Vogelsong was making his first start since being hit in the face with a pitch May 23. He worked an efficient six innings, allowing one run on three hits and one walk, striking out six. Vogelsong threw 83 pitches.
“A real pro outing,” Hurdle said. “Fun to watch. A blue-collar outing. The inning they scored their run the had two infield singles. A very good outing.”
The Pirates scored a run in the third inning. Eric Fryer walked, moved to second on a sacrifice and scored on Adam Frazier’s single to center field.
The Braves tied the game in the bottom of the inning. Inciarte reached on an infield single, extending his hitting streak to 15 games, and went to third on A.J. Pierzynski’s hit-and-run single. After a walk to Jace Peterson loaded the bases, Inciarte came in to score when Vogelsong failed to field Aybar’s high chopper and was unable to make a play at the plate.
NOTES: The start of Thursday’s game was delayed by 1 hour, 16 minutes by an afternoon thunderstorm. … Pittsburgh optioned INF Max Moroff to Triple-A Indianapolis in order to activate RHP Ryan Vogelsong for Thursday’s start. The team released RHP Wilfredo Boscan, who was 1-1 with a 6.46 ERA in six appearances, one start, for the Pirates. … Pirates C Francisco Cervelli was not in the lineup again Thursday, but had improved enough to avoid a trip to the concussion disabled list. Cervelli was hit by a pitch in the head Tuesday. Elias Diaz, who was with the club as an emergency measure, was never activated and returned to Triple-A Indianapolis. … The Braves still don’t know who will start Saturday in St. Louis. Aaron Blair, who was expected to be recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett, was placed on the disabled list Thursday, further limiting the team’s choices. The Braves will start RHP Joe De La Cruz (0-3, 3.80) against St. Louis LHP Jaime Garcia (7-8, 4.30) on Friday. Pittsburgh returns home Friday to open a three-game set against Cincinnati. The Reds send RHP Anthony DeSclafani (6-0, 2.93) against Pittsburgh RHP Jameson Taillon (2-2, 3.52) in the first game.