Despite scoring seven runs as 11 men came to the plate in the first inning, it didn't come easy for Pittsburgh. Once taking that early 9-0 lead, Atlanta outscored the Pirates 9-3 for the rest of the game. After 21 combined runs and 36 combined hits, the Pirates came away with a 12-9 win, taking a 2-0 lead in the four-game series.
Both pitching staffs struggled heavily in a game that had only one scoreless inning through the first seven innings.
It was a complete nightmare for Aaron Blair in the first inning, and he wasn't helped defensively. John Jaso singled and Gregory Polanco doubled to put runners on second and third with one out and Jung Ho Kang at the plate. Kang grounded to Gordon Beckham, who attempted to throw out Jason at the plate. That attempt was unsuccessful, as A.J. Pierzynski continued his struggles of catching the ball cleanly with an extremely costly error, and the Pirates took a 1-0 lead. Francisco Cervelli followed that up with an RBI single to make it 2-0 before Matt Joyce struck out to give Blair the chance to escape with just two runs allowed.
Instead, Blair failed to retire five straight batters. The Braves' second error of the inning came from Smith, who failed to field a liner to center field cleanly and allowed Josh Harrison to advance to second on an RBI single that made it 3-0. Blair then intentionally walked Jordy Mercer to load the bases for the pitcher, Juan Nicasio. Nicasio helped himself out with an RBI single to right field that made it 4-0 and extended the inning back to the top of the order. Jaso then knocked his second of the inning -- this one a driven double to right that score two more runs. Andrew McCutchen, who made the first out in the inning, capped off the inning with a line drive hit to right, scoring one more run before Ender Inciarte threw out Jaso at the plate. After 11 batters came to the plate and seven hits, Blair finally got out of the inning allowing seven runs.
The second inning didn't get much better for Blair. After recording just one out and allowing two more doubles to Polanco and Cervelli, Blair was removed from the game by Brian Snitker and replaced by Bud Norris. A Jordy Mercer single scored Cervelli, giving the Pirates a 9-0 lead after two innings.
Blair's final line was 1.1 innings, nine hits, one walk, one strikeout, and nine earned runs. The outing shot his ERA from 4.05 to 7.59. Blair is still winless in his five major league starts, falling to 0-3 on the year.
Atlanta began clawing back at the huge lead in the third inning with the leadoff hitter that we all expect -- Bud Norris. Norris lined a triple over the head of the shallow-playing Polanco and hustled all the way to third on the play. Next up, the Braves received their power from a source we also all expect -- Mallex Smith. Smith turned on a fastball and delivered it high into the right field seats for his second home run of the year as the Braves cut the deficit to seven runs. An Inciarte single, and walks from Nick Markakis and Freddie Freeman then loaded the bases with nobody out. Pierzynski popped out, but Beckham delivered with a single to right that scored Inciarte and made it 9-3. The rally was ended with a Kelly Johnson double play.
The scoring calmed down -- but only for an inning. In the fifth, the Braves continued fighting back at the huge deficit attained early. Inciarte led off with a bunt single, and Markakis followed with a line drive single to right. The Pirates made their only error in the game on the next play, as John Jaso's throwing error allowed Freeman to reach base and Inciarte came around to score on the play. Pierzynski's double play brought Markakis home for the second run of the inning, but effectively ended the rally.
Pittsburgh wiped away the progress of the Braves in the bottom half of the inning. After Norris allowed a hit to Alen Hanson, Ian Krol replaced him on the mound. Krol walked Sean Rodriguez and gave up a single to McCutchen to bring the speedy Hanson around for a run. Polanco's ground out scored McCutchen, and the Pirated regained their six-run lead at 11-5.
The Braves chipped away a run once again in the top half of the sixth against Ryan Vogelsong. Nicasio was pulled after five innings of work, allowing eight hits, two walks, and five runs (three earned), while striking out six. Atlanta loaded the bases with one out thanks to singles from Daniel Castro and Reid Brignac and a walk from Inciarte. Markakis drove a single to right which scored one, but Smith questionably held at third despite his speed. That decision came back to bite the Braves, as Freeman struck out and Pierzynski chopped out to end the threat.
In the seventh inning, the Braves' bats were right back at it trying to cut into the Pittsburgh lead. Beckham led off with a double to right center and Erick Aybar was hit by a pitch to begin the rally. Castro's double play appeared to end that rally, leaving just a runner at third with two outs. Brignac followed with a double of his own to right field, scoring Beckham to make it an 11-6 game. Next up, the Braves' power bat, Smith, turned on another fastball -- this one 98 mph -- and sent it into the right field seats for his second homer of the game. After falling behind 9-0, the Braves cut the lead to 11-9.
The Pirates added one more run to the lead in the bottom half of the inning. McCutchen tripled off of Jason Grilli with two outs. Hunter Cervenka replace Grilli, and he threw a wild pitch on his first pitch of the inning to allow McCutchen to score.
Inciarte, Markakis, Beckham, Castro, Brignac, and Smith all had multi-hit games for Atlanta. Beckham's three hits (two doubles) led the team.
The Braves' nine runs and 15 hits in the game is the most this season, surpassing eight runs scored against the Dodgers and the 12 hits they had totaled twice. Atlanta is now 7-3 this season when scoring at least five runs.
Atlanta will continue the four-game series against Pittsburgh on Wednesday night at 7:05 p.m. ET. Julio Teheran will take the mound against Francisco Liriano.