Braves Vs. Pirates, Game 2: Atlanta Takes Two-Game Sweep Behind Strong Pitching

The Braves and Pirates face off in Pittsburgh for two games at the back end of Atlanta's road trip. The games run from May 24-25.

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Braves Vs. Pirates Final Score: Brooks Conrad Goes Deep In Extras For 4-2 Atlanta Win

Mike Minor picked up the injured Tim Hudson with one run in 5.2 innings as the Braves squeaked out another extra-innings win, 4-2.

The Braves got on the board quickly with a run in the first due to three straight hits to start the game. Jordan Schafer doubled, Alex Gonzalez singled and Chipper Jones singled home Schafer. However, with runners on the corners, Brian McCann popped out and Eric Hinske grounded into a double play.

The Pirates tied the game in the third when Jose Tabata reached on an infield single, stole second and scored on a single by Steve Pearce. But the Braves answered in the sixth when Hinske hit a solo homer for a 2-1 lead.

With Eric O'Flaherty on the mound in the seventh, Pearce struck again with a solo homer to tie the game at two. This eventually sent the game to extra innings, where Brooks Conrad hit a two-run home run in the 11th to win, 4-2.

Conrad hit the homer as a pinch hitter in the 11th. Hinske and Chipper had the other RBIs, Hinske's on his fifth homer. Schafer and Gonzalez each went 2-5, with Schafer picking up a double. The Braves struck out 12 times and walked twice, which seems to be a recurring theme these days. Dan Uggla went 0-5 with three strikeouts a day after taking a day off to "clear his head." This is also a recurring theme.

Minor allowed one run on seven hits in 5.2 innings, walking two and striking out five. He had a couple rough spots and worked into deep counts, but he also threw just 90 pitches over almost six full innings and threw first-pitch strikes to 16 of 25 batters. He also induced more ground balls than fly balls at 7/5.

Scott Proctor received the final out in the sixth with two on and two outs. O'Flaherty allowed the tying homer to Pearce in the seventh. Jonny Venters pitched two scoreless innings. George Sherrill pitched a scoreless 10th, and Craig Kimbrel did the same in the 11th.

James McDonald allowed two runs on six hits in six innings, walking one and striking out six. Jeff Karstens allowed the home run to Conrad in the 11th.

Pearce was the entire Pittsburgh offense by going 3-5 with a homer and two RBIs. Tabata, Lyle Overbay and Matt Diaz each had two hits.

For more on the series, Braves fans check out Talking Chop and Pirates fans check out Bucs Dugout.

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Braves Vs. Pirates: Mike Minor Makes Spot Start In Series Finale

After a shut down performance by Jair Jurrjens resulted in a 2-0 win for the Braves in the series opener, Atlanta is looking for a short sweep of the Pirates with a 12:35 start on Wednesday. The game is on SportSouth.

Braves Lineup:

1. Jordan Schafer, CF

2. Alex Gonzalez, SS

3. Chipper Jones, 3B

4. Brian McCann, C

5. Eric Hinske, LF

6. Dan Uggla, 2B

7. Freddie Freeman, 1B

8. Joe Mather, RF

9. Mike Minor, SP

Pirates Lineup:

1. Jose Tabata, LF

2. Steve Pearce, 3B

3. Andrew McCutchen, CF

4. Neil Walker, 2B

5. Ryan Doumit, C

6. Matt Diaz, RF

7. Lyle Overbay, 1B

8. Ronny Cedeno, SS

9. James McDonald, SP

Mike Minor (AAA: 52.2 IP, 2.73 ERA, 3.43 FIP, 2.39 BB/9, 9.23 K/9; MLB: 4.1 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 2 K)
vs.
James McDonald (47.1 IP, 5.51 ERA, 5.04 FIP, 4.34 xFIP, 4.37 BB/9, 7.42 K/9, 38 GB%, 7.4 SwStr%)
(70.2 FB%, 19.4 CB%, 10.4 CH%; 46.7 Swing%, 83 Contact%)

Minor is receiving a spot start in place of the injured Tim Hudson. It's his second spot start this season after filling in for Jurrjens on April 6, which didn't go well, allowing five runs in 4.1 innings to the Brewers. Minor has pitched pretty well for Triple-A Gwinnett, though he hasn't been lights out as his ERA suggests. He gave up five runs on 10 hits in his last start, not walking any and striking out eight. Here's to hoping his second spot start goes better than the first.

McDonald has had his share of ups and downs this season, and the downs have affected his numbers. Eight homers and a 12.9 HR/FB% have been a big part of it. This is McDonald's first full season at age 26, so these struggles are expected, but he has some good stuff, including a low-to-mid-90s fastball and solid curve. His most recent start was one run on seven hits against the Reds, including one walk and four strikeouts.

For more on the series, Braves fans check out Talking Chop and Pirates fans check out Bucs Dugout.

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Braves Vs. Pirates Final Score: Jair Jurrjens Shuts Out Pittsburgh In 2-0 Atlanta Win

Runs in the second and third were all Jair Jurrjens needed as the hot right-hander pitched 7.2 shutout innings, leading the Braves to a 2-0 win over the Pirates.

Jurrjens allowed six singles over 7.2 innings, walking one and striking out four. That's five straight starts with fewer than two walks. He induced 10 ground balls to nine fly balls, and the Pirates never reached third base. He moved to 6-1 on the season.

The Braves got on the board in the second when consecutive singles set up a sac fly RBI by Brooks Conrad, who started at second base in place of the struggling Dan Uggla. They added a second run in the third when Jordan Schafer walked and scored from first on a double by Martin Prado.

The Braves came close to scoring in the fifth when Chipper Jones hit a ground-rule double by way of fan interference, forcing Prado to stay at third base even though he would have scored on the hit. With two in scoring position and two outs, Brian McCann grounded out.

Alex Gonzalez led the Braves with three hits, including a double. Conrad and Prado recorded the two RBIs, and Prado and Chipper had one double each. Schafer went 0-4 with a walk and run scored in his first start of the season. Uggla came in as a defensive replacement for Conrad in the ninth.

Behind Jurrjens, Jonny Venters received the final out in the eighth after Jurrjens put a runner on. Craig Kimbrel shut the door in the ninth with a scoreless inning.

Charlie Morton allowed two runs on seven hits in seven innings, walking three and striking out four. He induced 13 ground balls to four fly balls.

Jose Tabata and Chris Snyder each had two singles and the offense had six total hits.

For more on the series, Braves fans check out Talking Chop and Pirates fans check out Bucs Dugout.

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Braves Vs. Pirates: Jordan Schafer Starts, Dan Uggla Sits In Series Opener

Another new-look lineup will be trotted out by the Braves in the series opener against the Pirates at PNC Park on Tuesday. Game time is 7:05 on SportSouth.

Braves Lineup:
1. Jordan Schafer, CF
2. Martin Prado, LF
3. Chipper Jones, 3B
4. Brian McCann, C
5. Eric Hinske, RF
6. Alex Gonzalez, SS
7. Freddie Freeman, 1B
8. Brooks Conrad, 2B
9. Jair Jurrjens, SP

Pirates Lineup:
1. Andrew McCutchen, CF
2. Jose Tabata, LF
3. Garrett Jones, RF
4. Neil Walker, 2B
5. Lyle Overbay, 1B
6. Brandon Wood, 3B
7. Chris Snyder, C
8. Ronny Cedeno, SS
9. Charlie Morton, SP

Jair Jurrjens (50 IP, 1.80 ERA, 2.80 FIP, 3.43 xFIP, 1.44 BB/9, 5.22 K/9, 50.6 GB%, 6.6 SwStr%)
(59.8 FB%, 22.9 CH%, 17.3 SL%; 48 Swing%, 86 Contact%)
vs.
Charlie Morton (55 IP, 2.62 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 3.89 xFIP, 4.25 BB/9, 4.75 K/9, 61.9 GB%, 6 SwStr%)
(81.5 FB%, 9.8 CB%, 7.3 CH%, 1.4 SL%; 45.1 Swing%, 86.7 Contact%)

Jurrjens continued his strong pitching with 6.2 innings in his last start against the Diamondbacks, allowing two runs on eight hits with one walk and three strikeouts. He had double digit ground balls for the fourth time in five starts, and while the strikeouts were a bit low, he held his walk total to less than two for the fifth straight start.

Morton, a former Brave, has rediscovered the ability to pitch this season due to a newfound sinker that he is throwing 81.5% of the time; his fastball percentage last season was 59.1%. The pitch has been very successful for Morton and is the real reason for his turnaround. His ground ball rate is second-best in all of MLB and No. 1 in the National League, and it has seen a 15% jump from his total last season. The one issue with Morton has been walks, but that comes with increased movement on the fastball, especially when it's a new pitch.

Opposing Numbers:
Considering he is young and is a former Brave, Morton hasn't seen the Braves much. Chipper Jones, Brian McCann and Eric Hinske have one hit each, including a homer for Hinske.

Chris Snyder is 2-5 with two doubles against Jurrjens. Lyle Overbay is 1-5 and Andrew McCutchen is 0-3 with two strikeouts.

What to Look For:
The Braves are sporting a makeshift lineup in this series, so that could either hurt the struggling offense even more or jumpstart it. They will have their hands full with a revived Morton.

Notes:
Schafer is making his first appearance of 2011 in the leadoff spot while Dan Uggla sits due to his struggles.

For more on the series, Braves fans check out Talking Chop and Pirates fans check out Bucs Dugout.

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Braves Vs. Pirates: Atlanta Visits Pittsburgh For Two To End Road Trip

The Braves are coming off a second consecutive series loss on the road trip, this time two of three to the Angels. Whatever ground they gained on the Phillies during their little hot streak has disappeared. They are looking to right the ship (yeah, I said it) against the Pirates in Pittsburgh over two games.

The Pirates have been a pleasant surprise in the NL Central this year, sitting at 22-24 and 5.5 games out of first. Their mark of 18-17 on May 9 was the latest date the team has been over .500 in quite a few years, but as if on cue, they lost their next six. They were able to come back and win their next four, and their most recent series was winning two of three against the Tigers.

Tuesday, May 24 - 7:05 (SportSouth)
Jair Jurrjens (50 IP, 1.80 ERA, 2.80 FIP, 3.43 xFIP, 1.44 BB/9, 5.22 K/9, 50.6 GB%, 6.6 SwStr%)
(59.8 FB%, 22.9 CH%, 17.3 SL%; 48 Swing%, 86 Contact%)
vs.
Charlie Morton (55 IP, 2.62 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 3.89 xFIP, 4.25 BB/9, 4.75 K/9, 61.9 GB%, 6 SwStr%)
(81.5 FB%, 9.8 CB%, 7.3 CH%, 1.4 SL%; 45.1 Swing%, 86.7 Contact%)

Jurrjens continued his strong pitching with 6.2 innings in his last start against the Diamondbacks, allowing two runs on eight hits with one walk and three strikeouts. He had double digit ground balls for the fourth time in five starts, and while the strikeouts were a bit low, he held his walk total to less than two for the fifth straight start.

Morton, a former Brave, has rediscovered the ability to pitch this season due to a newfound sinker that he is throwing 81.5% of the time; his fastball percentage last season was 59.1%. The pitch has been very successful for Morton and is the real reason for his turnaround. His ground ball rate is second-best in all of MLB and No. 1 in the National League, and it has seen a 15% jump from his total last season. The one issue with Morton has been walks, but that comes with increased movement on the fastball, especially when it's a new pitch.

Wednesday, May 25 - 12:35 (SportSouth)
Mike Minor (AAA: 52.2 IP, 2.73 ERA, 3.43 FIP, 2.39 BB/9, 9.23 K/9; MLB: 4.1 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 2 K)
vs.
James McDonald (47.1 IP, 5.51 ERA, 5.04 FIP, 4.34 xFIP, 4.37 BB/9, 7.42 K/9, 38 GB%, 7.4 SwStr%)
(70.2 FB%, 19.4 CB%, 10.4 CH%; 46.7 Swing%, 83 Contact%)

Minor is receiving a spot start in place of the injured Tim Hudson. It's his second spot start this season after filling in for Jurrjens on April 6, which didn't go well, allowing five runs in 4.1 innings to the Brewers. Minor has pitched pretty well for Triple-A Gwinnett, though he hasn't been lights out as his ERA suggests. He gave up five runs on 10 hits in his last start, not walking any and striking out eight. Here's to hoping his second spot start goes better than the first.

McDonald has had his share of ups and downs this season, and the downs have affected his numbers. Eight homers and a 12.9 HR/FB% have been a big part of it. This is McDonald's first full season at age 26, so these struggles are expected, but he has some good stuff, including a low-to-mid-90s fastball and solid curve. His most recent start was one run on seven hits against the Reds, including one walk and four strikeouts.

Pirates Bullpen:
Joel Hanrahan has been solid at the back of the Pirates bullpen, recording 13 saves and a 1.66 ERA. Daniel McCutchen has been among the best in baseball in the pen, allowing just one run in 20.1 innings. Jose Veras and Jeff Karstens have solid ERA's, as well.

Projected Pirates Lineup:
1. Andrew McCutchen, CF
2. Jose Tabata, LF
3. Garrett Jones, RF
4. Neil Walker, 2B
5. Lyle Overbay, 1B
6. Ryan Doumit, C
7. Brandon Wood, 3B
8. Ronny Cedeno, SS

For more on the series, Braves fans check out Talking Chop and Pirates fans check out Bucs Dugout.

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