It got more interesting in the second frame. McDonald hit a batter, gave up a double, and then walked a Bravo. After a K, he walked in a run on four pitches. Then he struck out the next pair of Atlanta hitters on six pitches. He went from to good to bad to good in a New York minute. Maholm just kept on rolling.
The next pair of frames went by without a lot of noise. J-Mac issued another walk and got another K, while Cutch doubled with two down in the fourth for Pittsburgh's first knock. He stole third, but was left stranded when Gaby flew out fairly deep to straightaway center.
The fifth was a little rockier for J-Mac. After whiffing Maholm, Marte robbed BJ Upton, leaping to the top of the wall in left to pull in a drive that was close to landing in the seats. McDonald followed that with a five pitch walk, his fourth of the night. J-Mac escaped when Justin Upton banged his 80th pitch just short of the track in right where JT ran it down with another nice bit of D.
The Bucs went to work in their half with some small ball. Russell Martin walked on a 3-2 pitch and Neil Walker dropped a bunt for a base hit. The Fort went down on a fifty-fifty, two-strike check swing, Barmes swung and missed at a 1-2 changeup in the dirt, and Clint Hurdle let J-Mac bat. He sat down after looking at a called strike three.
The Braves got a runner to second via a one out infield knock and groundout that 3B Martin played off his chest but handled. J-Mac nailed Juan Francisco on a foul tip K, so Hurdle's decision to let him bat paid off, and at 94 pitches he may have another frame left in him.
Marte fell behind 0-2, but started the sixth working a disciplined walk, and JT bunted him to second. It paid off when Cutch ripped his second double, this one off the Clemente Wall, to knot the score and end Maholm's scoreless streak at 25-1/3 innings.
When it rains, it pours. Gaby Sanchez hammered a cut fastball up in the zone into the center field shrubs, and the Bucs were up 3-1. Martin followed with an eight pitch walk. Freddi Gonzalez left Maholm in, probably to turn The Kid around, and it worked as Walker rolled over on a backdoor 0-2 curve and bounced into an inning ending 6-4-3 DP.
That frame ended J-Mac's night. He went six, giving up a run on two hits, four walks, a plunked batter and nine punchouts. Tony Watson took the bump in the seventh and held on to the lead without much ado.
Cory Gearrin replaced Maholm on the hill, and The Fort greeted him with a double to left, and Alex Presley came in to run for him. A wild pitch moved The King to third. Barmes didn't see a strike, but still struck out. Pedro grabbed a bat to pinch hit, and was intentionally walked by the righty. Good move; Marte turned on a slider away and banged into an around the horn DP as the Bucs burned a great opp to add to their margin.
Mark Melancon climbed the hill in the eighth and Pedro reclaimed the hot corner. MM added another zero to the Bravo line after giving up a leadoff single to Justin Upton. Jordan Walden took the walk from the pen in the bottom half and continued the Bravo relievers string of goose eggs, surviving a Cutch drive to the Notch that was corralled and a two-out knocks by Sanchez and Martin.
Jason Grilli got the bottom of the Bravo lineup in a role reversal from last season, and struck out the side for his sixth save in six chances. So the Bucs have taken 2-of-3 from the hottest team in baseball, and are over the .500 mark
Jonathan Sanchez takes on Kris Medlen tomorrow afternoon.
- The Pirates K'ed 13 Braves tonight.
- After a rocky spring on the basepaths, Cutch is now 6-of-7 at swiping sacks.
- 29,313 braved a fall-like night to catch the game - and score an Andrew McCutchen bobblehead.
- The Braves continued an odd stat - they've won all 13 games they've homered in, and lost all four in which they haven't.
- Bravo 2B Dan Uggla left the game in the fourth inning with a strained calf.
- Per Elias Sports: Paul Maholm was trying to become the first pitcher during the Modern Era (since 1900) to open a season with four straight scoreless starts. Cutch spoiled that in the sixth, and Gaby piled on.
- Francisco Liriano didn't have such a hot day for Altoona: He went 2-2/3 IP, and gave up four runs on four hits (one a three-run blast in the first) with three walks and four K. He was yanked after 67 pitches; 65 was his approximate limit. Jose Contreras worked a perfect frame with a whiff.