Braves Singled To Submission By Pirates

PITTSBURGH — Manager Clint Hurdle made a couple of minor adjustments to his lineup Saturday night specifically because the Pittsburgh Pirates were facing veteran knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.

Left fielder Gregory Polanco wasn’t among those adjustments. In fact, Hurdle decided on a hunch to bat Polanco in the cleanup spot. Polanco, well, cleaned up.

Polanco went 4-for-4, scored twice and drove in a run as the Pirates evened their record with a 6-4 win over the Atlanta Braves at PNC Park.

“That’s what makes the game so great,” Hurdle said. “The balls might have been dropping into his hot zones. He can hit the ball down. There was a lot of action on that knuckleball tonight. … I mean, there were some right turns, some left turns on the knuckleball.

“Polanco seemed to get balls in comfortable spaces and saw the ball well.”

Braves manager Brian Snitker admired the pitches from Dickey, who was making his debut with Atlanta after signing last fall.

“That’s my first time to ever manage a knuckleballer,” Snitker said. “Kind of feeling through it. He’s such a competitive guy. His thing really moved tonight.”

Chad Kuhl (1-0), in a season debut that was pushed back from Thursday because of a rainout, allowed three runs (two earned) and five hits in five innings, with five strikeouts and six walks for the Pirates.

Tony Watson pitched the ninth for his second save.

Dickey (0-1) pitched 5 2/3 innings, charged with six runs (three earned), with four walks and four strikeouts. He also singled in two runs, although they were unearned.

The Pirates got nine hits off Dickey, but eight were singles.

“I felt pretty good and in control for the most part,” Dickey said. “It’s not like I was giving up missiles in the gaps. I felt pretty in control. It was moving well and late, which is good this early in the season.”

The Pirates (2-2) came from behind twice in the first three innings and led 4-3 through five innings, with three of the runs unearned because of errors.

Defensively, Pittsburgh turned four double plays, including three that ended innings.

“The double plays were adrenaline shots each and every time we got one,” Hurdle said.

In the sixth, Pittsburgh pinch-hitter Alen Hanson reached on an infield single, went to second on a wild pitch, to third on a passed ball and scored on another wild pitch for a 5-3 lead. Dickey walked two batters during that sequence and was lifted for Ian Krol, who gave up an RBI single to Polanco to make it 6-3.

“I kept battling, unfortunately there were some (knucklers) that were just nasty,” Atlanta catcher Kurt Suzuki said. “I got a glove on them, but, unfortunately, it got a run on us and it ultimately helped cost us the game. That’s what bugs me.”

The Braves (1-4) added a run in the eighth on Suzuki’s sacrifice fly.

Pittsburgh is 11-4 in its past 15 home games against Atlanta.

In the first inning, Kuhl got out of a two-on, one-out jam when second baseman Adam Frazier snagged a liner and doubled off Dansby Swanson.

Kuhl wasn’t as lucky in the second. Back-to-back singles and, after Jace Peterson struck out, an intentional walk to Suzuki loaded the bases. Dickey blooped a single to right, driving in Nick Markakis and Brandon Phillips to give Atlanta a 2-0 lead.

With two outs, Swanson walked to again load the bases, but Kuhl struck out Freeman.

“Early on, I just felt a little out of control, but I did enough to get outs,” Kuhl said.

Pittsburgh tied it in the bottom of the second on Jordy Mercer’s two-out RBI single and a grounder by Kuhl that was booted by Braves third baseman Adonis Garcia, allowing Francisco Cervelli to score from third.

Atlanta made it 3-2 in the third when Garcia reached on a two-base error as center fielder Starling Marte and Polanco let the ball drop between them — “They both lost the ball in the twilight,” Hurdle said — and two outs later, Peterson tripled to right center.

Pittsburgh took its first lead at 4-3 with one out in the bottom of the third. Phillips, who was at second base, dropped a grounder for an error, allowing Polanco to score after he doubled and advanced on a passed ball.

NOTES: Pittsburgh 3B David Freese did not start a day after he got drilled with a grounder. He said his collarbone was sore, affecting his swing, but said he would have been available off the bench. … Atlanta LF Matt Kemp did not start a day left with right hamstring tightness. Manager Brian Snitker said Kemp likely is out until Tuesday, but he could be available to pinch-hit. … 1B John Jaso safter he tarted for the Pirates over 1B Josh Bell. Manager Clint Hurdle said that was because Jaso has experience facing knuckleballers, such as Braves starter R.A. Dickey.

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