A series win will be up for grabs Sunday when the Atlanta Braves and visiting Pittsburgh Pirates meet.
After the Braves (92-49) were dominant Friday in an 8-2 win, the Pirates (66-76) proved feisty on Saturday, racking up their own eight-run game in an 8-4 victory.
That delayed, at least for a day, Atlanta’s shot at becoming the first team this year to clinch a playoff spot. They can do that Sunday with a win.
The Pirates seemed to get under the Braves’ skin on Saturday. The benches and bullpens emptied after Pittsburgh starter Johan Oviedo threw a fastball in tight on Atlanta leadoff hitter Ronald Acuna Jr. in the first inning, although there were no punches thrown or ejections.
Braves batters continued to show some frustration on inside pitches, and manager Brian Snitker got ejected in the fourth after Austin Riley was hit by a pitch.
“I would be (upset), too,” Snitker said of Acuna. “He holds his composure pretty well, and that’s the first time I’ve seen him react like that. And he’s had a lot of opportunity to take a little umbrage in what guys are trying to do to him.”
In addition to the three-game series being on the line, the season series is, too. Atlanta and Pittsburgh have split the six games they have played entering their season series finale.
The Pirates have made no secret of the fact that they are trying to make a push to go from rebuilding to being fully competitive as soon as next year. Their parade of rookies and young players proves that.
But lately they also have been able to play spoiler, taking two of three against the National League Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers entering the series against the Braves, the top team in baseball.
That doesn’t mean Pittsburgh expects it to be easy to take the series.
“(Atlanta) is a great team, and it’s a tough place to play. We did a bunch of things well (Saturday). We’ve just got to build on it (Sunday),” Pirates left fielder Bryan Reynolds, who was 3-for-5 with a home run Saturday, told AT&T Sportsnet.
The Braves have 24 hits in the series.
“Definitely the best lineup in baseball,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said.
Atlanta got one component of its lineup back Saturday — Riley, the team’s third baseman, who went 1-for-4 with a strikeout after missing two games because of an illness.
Sunday, Pittsburgh’s Luis Ortiz (4-4, 4.90 ERA) and Atlanta rookie Allan Winans (1-1, 5.17) are scheduled to start in a matchup of right-handers.
Neither has faced the opposing team before.
Ortiz is coming off a win Monday against Milwaukee when he allowed two runs and five hits in six innings.
Winans’ last start, Aug. 21 against the New York Mets, was a loss. He gave up seven runs and nine hits, including two homers, in 4 1/3 innings.
Atlanta appears to be reserving two of its better starters, Charlie Morton and Spencer Strider, for a doubleheader Monday against Philadelphia.
–Field Level Media