Aug 20, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Jayson Nix (27) completes a double play while being up-ended by Atlanta Braves left fielder Justin Upton (8) during the second inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Braves blow late lead in loss to Pittsburgh Pirates

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It was only a matter of time until the Atlanta Braves found themselves in a pitcher’s duel. After all, they’ve scored a billion runs of offense in the last five games. Or at least it felt like a billion, but was probably closer to 33. Either way, the Braves have been winning games with the long stick, but there was going to come a time when they would have to win a closer match off the mound.

Would Alex Wood be able to deliver in game three against the Pirates, and possibly sweep them away? Nope, but it wasn’t his fault.

The move of Jason Heyward to the lead-off spot in the order has paid dividends for the Braves, and it paid them again Wednesday night. Jason started the game with a walk. The lead off walk is a simple thing, but it can be oh so deadly to a pitcher. Freddie Freeman followed with a single that moved Heyward to second, and Justin Upton knocked him in with another single. Just like that, the Braves were up 1-0 in the first inning. In the sixth inning, Jason Heyward led off with a double. Chris Johnson ended up singling him home to score the second run of the game and put the Braves up 2-0.

What happened in the interim? Alex Wood was straight dealing, that’s what happened. He pitched seven innings of shutout baseball on only three hits. However, when Alex came out there in the eighth inning, he wasn’t as sharp. He walked the first batter, then gave up a double to the second batter. Suddenly, the game was on the line with two runners in scoring position and nobody out.

Who would Fredi call on in that situation? Jordan Walden in a tough spot. Basically the Braves needed strikeouts, and they hoped Jordan Walden could deliver. The first batter rolled out to first, but got the run in and advanced the runner, making it 2-1 Braves. The Braves drew in the infield to stop the other runner from advancing on a grounder, but it didn’t matter as Walden uncorked a wild pitch and the runner scored anyway. Wood received a no-decision because of Walden’s shenanigans, and some “interesting” bullpen management.

While I don’t question managers often, I will point something out. When the game is on the line, and a base hit in the 8th will tie it, why not get your closer? The Braves needed a strikeout desperately, and Craig Kimbrel is your best strikeout pitcher on the team. Managers still refuse to do this, because the “book” tells them not to. I want to set that book on fire. Some day a manager with some cajones will come along and shake up the stodgy old way of bullpen management. I can only hope he’s managing for my team.

The Braves went quietly in the 9th, and David Carpenter showed up in the bottom half to possibly extend the game to extras. He immediately gave up a bloop single to right that started the inning on a dour note. It got worse. On what should have been a fly out to center, Justin Upton ran in front of his brother and knocked the ball loose. The Pirates hit a sacrifice fly to win the game, and the Braves blew their 2 runs lead in awful fashion. I was physically ill watching that display at the end. Alex Wood deserved better.

Next up, the Braves head to Cincinnati to face off against the Reds in a four game series. Hopefully, they can score four or more runs, since that seems to be the only safe lead. Julio Teheran goes against David Holmberg, a guy who has pitched literally two games in the majors. The Braves need to rebound quickly, and that might be the right tonic. Don’t miss it.

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