Pittsburgh Pirates' Gaby Sanchez, foreground, runs home past Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Paul Maholm (28) after hitting a two-run home run during the sixth inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh, Saturday, April 20, 2013. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Saturday, April 20, 2013 11:41 pm
Braves have first losing streak of season
By JOHN PERROTTOAssociated Press
Paul Maholm's streak of 25 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings ended when he gave up three runs in the sixth inning to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Gaby Sanchez's two-run home run capped the inning and propelled the Pirates to a 3-1 victory, which put Atlanta on its first losing streak of the season.
The Braves (13-4), who have the best record in the major leagues, had not lost consecutive games all year. Atlanta also suffered its first loss of the season in a game in which it scored.
"I never really thought about the streak because I knew I was going to give up some runs at some point," Maholm said. "I'm not upset about that. I'm just disappointed that I made two bad pitches, one to (Andrew) McCutchen and one to Gaby that cost us the game."
With the Braves leading 1-0, Starling Marte opened the decisive sixth by drawing a walk and was bunted to second by Jose Tabata. McCutchen then drove in Marte to tie it with a double off the right-field wall on a night when fans received a bobblehead doll of the All-Star center fielder.
Sanchez followed by a driving a 1-2 pitch to center field to put the Pirates ahead.
"It was a matter of our hitters sticking with the game plan," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. "We stayed patient until Paul left a couple of pitches up in the zone and we hit them."
Maholm (3-1) allowed three runs and four hits in six innings with three walks and five strikeouts.
James McDonald (2-2) struck out nine and allowed only one run on two hits. In his previous start on Monday, McDonald was rocked for eight runs in 1 2/3 innings by St. Louis. McDonald struck out the side in the first inning, setting down B.J. Upton, Jason Heyward and Justin Upton on 13 pitches.
McDonald issued four walks and three came in the second inning when he allowed his only run.
He hit Evan Gattis with a pitch to start the inning and the Braves then loaded the bases on Chris Johnson's double and a walk to Dan Uggla. One out later, Andrelton Simmons walked to force home Gattis.
McDonald bounced back to strike out Maholm and B.J. Upton to end the inning.
"We just got one (run) there and that hurt," Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We get McDonald on the ropes but instead of putting a big crooked number up there or maybe even getting him out of the game, we let him wiggle out of it. We hit some balls hard off him but that was really our only (scoring) chance."
Jason Grilli pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning to stay perfect in save opportunities at 6-for-6.
Chris Johnson had two of Atlanta's four hits and is 21-for-45 (.467) in his last 11 games. However, the braves have scored only one run while suffering the back-to-back losses.
"It's been a couple of days where we can't get the big hit," Johnson said. "We just have to focus in and get some hits with some guys on base. We'll be fine. We've proven we can score runs."
NOTES: Atlanta 2B Uggla left the game in the middle of the fourth inning with a strained left calf. ... The Braves placed INF Blake DeWitt on the 15-day disabled list with a strained lower back and recalled RHP David Carpenter from Class AAA Gwinnett. ... Pittsburgh C Russell Martin made the ninth start of his career at third base but first since 2008 with the Los Angeles Dodgers. ... Pirates LHP Francisco Liriano (broken right upper arm), pitching for Class AA Altoona on an injury rehabilitation assignment Saturday, gave up four runs and four hits in 2 2/3 innings in a loss to Harrisburg in the Eastern League. ... Atlanta RHP Kris Medlen (1-1, 1.42), who has received just five runs of support in his three starts, pitches Sunday against LHP Jonathan Sanchez (0-2, 12.96) in the finale of the four-game series.