Pirates fall to Braves again
ATLANTA — The Pirates kept Kenshin Kawakami’s winless streak intact, but that’s about all they did right Sunday in a 5-2 loss against the Atlanta Braves.
The Braves scored three runs in the eighth inning off relievers Joel Hanrahan (1-1) and Javier Lopez.
With one out, Hanrahan walked Nate McLouth and pinch-hitter Brian McCann. With two outs, Chipper Jones lofted an RBI single just out of the reach of shortstop Ronny Cedeno.
Jason Heyward ripped a two-run triple to left-center off Lopez.
Takashi Saito tossed one scoreless inning for the win. Billy Wagner got his seventh save.
It was the Braves’ first three-game sweep of the Pirates since July 13-15, 2007.
Until they tied it 2-2 in the seventh inning, it looked as if the Pirates would be the first team to lose this season against Kawakami.
Garrett Jones began the seventh with a walk. The Braves argued Jones had struck out, but the umpires ruled it a foul tip that hit the dirt, which extended Jones’ at-bat.
Jeff Clement followed with a first-pitch home run to right-center field. It was the eighth homer allowed by Kawakami in 10 winless starts this season.
Kawakami got a no-decision, but his seven losses remain tied for second-most in the National League. The “leader” is that category is Pirates righty Charlie Morton (nine).
Kawakami has lost nine straight decisions since Aug. 31, 2009, and has not won at Turner Field since May 22, 2009.
The Pirates had just one hit — a line-drive single by Jones — through the first five innings. In 6 2/3 innings, Kawakami gave up four hits, walked two and struck out two.
Kawakami, who’s in the second year of a three-year, $23 million contract, is not entirely to blame for his poor start. In his 10 starts, the Braves have scored just 17 runs while he was in the game.
Yesterday, the Braves gave him some early support. Martin Prado led off the first inning with single against lefty Paul Maholm. Prado went to third on Jason Heyward’s single and scored on Troy Glaus’ sacrifice fly to center.
Over the past four games, the Pirates have allowed 10 first-inning runs. It’s been 10 games since a Pirates starter got through the first inning without allowing at least one baserunner.
The Braves had ample opportunities to pad their lead, but failed. Maholm got into big-time jams in the second and third innings, but gave up just one run.
Atlanta loaded the bases with none out in the second. Maholm struck out Nate McLouth (who’s hitting only .159 against left-handers) and Kawakami, then got Prado to fly out.
Troy Glaus hit a solo homer with two outs in the third. Yunel Escobar and Melky Cabrera singled and David Ross walked. McLouth hit a soft sinker into shallow right field, but Delwyn Young made a sliding catch.
The Braves had runners at the corners with out in the sixth — Kawakami got it started by blasting a ground-rule double to left-center — but Maholm again escaped.