Atlanta eyes .500 as it travels to Pittsburgh

MLB Baseball

If a win can be more than just a win, the Pittsburgh Pirates are coming off a game like that headed into a home series against the Atlanta Braves beginning Monday.

The Pirates have a weight lifted following a 2-0 win Sunday over the visiting Milwaukee Brewers. Things had been getting tense — Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton had used the word “frustrating” on back-to-back nights — with six straight losses, just eight runs in those games, and the headache of assisting in Milwaukee drawing its winning streak out to 11 games with three lopsided losses before Sunday.

In fact, Pittsburgh has scored two runs in each of its past five games, but the two Sunday sure had a different flavor.

“We needed a clean game like this. We needed a (well-) executed start like this,” Shelton said of the relief Sunday’s win brought.

Atlanta is also coming off a feel-good win and has won four of six.

Sunday, the Braves scored three times in the ninth to tie it, then left-hander Max Fried — the scheduled starter Monday — provided a pinch-hit RBI in the 10th for a wild 8-7 win over the Miami Marlins.

“We never quit,” Fried told Bally Sports, talking about Sunday’s comeback win as well as the team in general. “We’ve done it over the past couple years.”

Atlanta pulled it off despite second baseman Ozzie Albies going 0 for 4, ending a string of five games in a row with an RBI.

A win Monday would put Atlanta at .500 for the first time since June 8. Pittsburgh, despite its win Sunday, shows no signs of sniffing .500 without an historically torrid stretch.

In the series opener, Atlanta’s Fried (5-4, 4.16 ERA) is slated to oppose Pittsburgh right-hander Chase De Jong (0-3, 5.65 ERA).

De Jong, who has never faced the Braves, has a tough act to follow, as Sunday’s starter, Tyler Anderson, pitched seven shutout innings. De Jong has lost three straight starts on the heels of three straight no-decisions.

He got a little roughed up in his most recent start, a loss Tuesday against Colorado, allowing five runs and nine hits in five innings, with no walks and three strikeouts — especially compared with his opposition, German Marquez, who threw a one-hitter after coming within three outs of a no-hitter.

That game was De Jong’s first at Coors Field, a hitters’ park, and he figures that affected him.

“Mistake pitches are going to happen [in that park],” he said. “It’s just a matter of limiting them.”

Perhaps being back at PNC Park will help Monday.

On the pitching side, rather than the hitting side, Fried is coming off a win in an efficient if not flashy start Wednesday against the New York Mets. In five innings, he allowed two runs and three hits, with two walks and seven strikeouts.

Then again, he didn’t have to be spectacular on a night when Atlanta scored 20 runs.

That game was a return from the IL after a blister problem.

Fried is 1-0 with a 4.91 ERA in two career starts against Pittsburgh. That win came May 23, when he gave up one run and four hits over seven innings, with three walks and two strikeouts.

–Field Level Media

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