PITTSBURGH — Mitch Keller took the mound for the Pittsburgh Pirates for the first time since leaving his last start against the Red Sox after just two innings with shoulder fatigue.
Unfortunately for Keller, poor defense hindered his outing, and the Atlanta Braves went on to rout the Pirates 14-2 on Wednesday afternoon at PNC Park. With the win, the Braves won all seven matchups against the Bucs this season.
In the fourth, first baseman Josh VanMeter committed a pair of errors, opening the door for five Braves’ runs, all of which were unearned.
With two outs, Robbie Grossman rolled one to first. If fielded cleanly, it would have ended the inning, but VanMeter saw the ball roll through his legs and into right field. Eddie Rosario was able to score on the misplay.
Later in the inning, Dansby Swanson cleared the bases with a double and advanced to third on a VanMeter throwing error. Swanson scored on an Austin Riley base hit to make it 7-0.
The Braves jumped out in front 2-0 in the second inning. Left fielder Tucupita Marcano couldn’t track down a double from Matt Olson on what looked like a catchable ball. William Contreras followed with a two-run homer to center.
Keller (4-10) was only able to last 3.2 innings. He allowed seven runs (two earned) on seven hits with two walks and five strikeouts. Keller threw 82 pitches, 53 for strikes.
“In the fourth he gave up the homer and then we didn’t help him very much after that. I didn’t think he threw the ball poorly, said Pirates’ manager Derek Shelton.
The Braves poured it on with seven runs in the eighth. Ronald Acuña Jr. recorded an RBI single. With the bases loaded, Riley was hit by a Colin Holderman pitch, plating another run.
Cam Vieaux entered the game for Holderman, and allowed a grand slam to Olson that cleared the right field stands and went into the Allegheny River. That put Atlanta ahead by a baker’s dozen. Olson became the first Braves’ player to reach the river.
Grossman later tacked on another tally with a base hit to left.
Holderman left the game with right shoulder discomfort and is day-to-day. He was charged with five runs after allowing five baserunners without recording an out.
“The velocity initially wasn’t where we wanted it to be. He threw the next one at 98, and then the next pitch, it looked like as he got ready to throw it something wasn’t right,” said Shelton. “We were going to take him out anyway with Olson coming up, but we got to get him looked at.”
Braves starter Kyle Wright (16-5) mowed down the Pirates through his seven innings. He blanked the Pirates, limiting them to just two hits. He had eight strikeouts en route to his National League-leading 16th win.
The Pirates finally scored in the ninth when Kevin Newman hit his first homer since last Sept. 6, against the Tigers, with a solo shot to left. “[He’s] continuing to swing the bat well and we’ve talked about when you check a box off, it’s probably a little sigh of relief there.”
Marcano added another run on a sacrifice fly later in the inning.
Oneil Cruz set a Statcast-record with a 122.4 mph single off the Clemente Wall against Wright in the third inning.
Ke’Bryan Hayes, who was serving as a designated hitter for the first time in his career, had two hits including a double. Tyler Heineman was on base twice with a double and a walk.
The Pirates have an off day on Thursday and well head across the state to Philadelphia for a weekend series with the Phillies beginning Friday night. Bryse Wilson (2-7, 5.74 ERA) will face Zack Wheeler (11-7, 3.07 ERA).