BRAVES 5, PIRATES 4: Bucs cough up lead, lose to Braves in 10th
ATLANTA — Jeff Locke made his 11th consecutive start without a loss, but the Pirates left-hander couldn’t stick around long enough to earn the win.
Locke was pulled in the sixth inning on Tuesday night, and the Braves hit a tying homer one batter later before beating Pittsburgh 5-4 in the 10th inning on Andrelton Simmons’ double off Mark Melancon.
Locke, the former Braves’ draft pick, topped 100 pitches for the first time this season. He gave up six hits and three runs in 5 2-3 innings and matched his season high with seven strikeouts.
“I thought everything was working pretty good,” Locke said.
“I felt pretty good the whole time. There was never any at-bat where I really felt out of it or anything like that. I know I had a couple walks but there were times where I could afford to put that guy on.”
Locke left the game with a 4-2 lead after giving up a two-out single to Dan Uggla. B.J. Upton tied the game with a two-run homer to center field off right-hander Ryan Reid.
“You’re looking at what you feel is your best matchup at the time and it didn’t work out,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of his decision to bring in Reid.
Locke has five wins since losing his opening start to the Dodgers.
Gaby Sanchez and Pedro Alvarez hit homers for Pittsburgh, which led 3-0 in the third.
Melancon (1-1) walked Uggla to open the 10th. Upton struck out after fouling off an attempted sacrifice bunt. Melancon then hit pinch-hitter Reed Johnson with a pitch, bringing Simmons to the plate.
Simmons sent a long drive to the gap in right-center, and Uggla jogged calmly around third base with the winning run before the Braves raced to celebrate with Simmons near second base.
Jason Heyward hoisted the shortstop, who said he didn’t know how to react.
“It was weird,” Simmons said. “Seeing everybody run and chase me down was kind of an awkward feeling. I didn’t know what to do.
“They are big guys. I made sure I protected myself.”
Anthony Vavaro (3-0) pitched a perfect 10th. Four Braves relievers combined to allow one hit in four scoreless innings in Atlanta’s fourth straight win.
The Braves came close to ending it in the ninth. After Justin Upton’s broken-bat single to left field, Freddie Freeman hit a deep fly that center fielder Andrew McCutchen caught at the wall. Grilli walked Brian McCann before striking out Ramiro Pena.
The Braves left the bases loaded in the eighth. Tony Watson walked Chris Johnson. Pena, running for Johnson, moved to second base when Watson walked Uggla.
B.J. Upton popped out before Pena and Uggla advanced on Watson’s wild pitch to pinch-hitter Evan Gattis. Watson then issued an intentional walk to Gattis, loading the bases before Simmons grounded out to end the inning.
The Pirates wasted an opportunity against Craig Kimbrel in the ninth.
McCutchen, who had a two-run double in the third inning, hit Kimbrel’s first pitch in the ninth for a single up the middle. With one out, Russell Martin walked. Kimbrel struck out Travis Snider on three pitches and ended the inning on Alvarez’s fly to center field.
McCutchen’s two run double in the third gave the Pirates a 3-0 lead.
Freeman cut the lead to 3-2 when he reached out and slapped a two-run, opposite-field double past Alvarez at third base in the third.
Minor allowed four hits and four runs, two earned, in six innings.
Martin made his first career start in right field. Martin, the starting catcher in Monday’s opening game of the series, has appeared in three games at third base this season but no games in the outfield.
The Braves traded Locke to the Pirates on June 3, 2009, as part of a package that sent outfielder Nate McLouth to Atlanta. The Pirates also acquired right-hander Charlie Morton in the deal.
NOTES: The Pirates fell to 4-2 in extra innings. ... The Pirates are off Thursday before opening a series at the Chicago Cubs. Hurdle said he plans to use Francisco Liriano, A.J. Burnett and Locke as his starting pitchers in Chicago. ... Gonzalez said he plans to start Gattis today to give McCann a rest. ... The three-game series will end when Braves RHP Julio Teheran faces Pirates LHP Wandy Rodriguez. Atlanta will complete an eight-game homestand.