Tough homecoming for all
In Glavine's return, Braves fall to Pirates in extra frames
ATLANTA -- After spending a good portion of the season's first 24 hours finding ways to squander opportunities, the Braves staged a nearly inexplainable ninth-inning rally that at least provided hope at Turner Field on Monday night.
But that hope only delayed the inevitable when Xavier Nady drilled a three-run homer off Blaine Boyer in the 12th inning, which allowed the Pirates to hold on for a 12-11 win over the Braves. Nady's two-homer performance, which included a solo homer to begin an important eighth inning, ruined Atlanta's home opener and Tom Glavine's return to his roots.
"It was probably the craziest game I've ever been a part of," said Braves catcher Brian McCann, whose towering homer in the fourth inning took a back seat in the memorable department to the sky-high, gift single that he produced to tie the game in the ninth inning.
Just to prove the night's zaniness wasn't confined to the ninth inning, the Braves attempted yet another rally with two outs in the 12th. But after Jeff Francoeur's two-out homer and Matt Diaz's RBI single, the evening actually came to a close when Pirates reliever Franquelis Osoria got Corky Miller to hit a lazy fly to center field.
Not until Nate McLouth actually snared the ball in his glove could the Pirates celebrate. They'd learned their lesson three innings earlier, when it seemed they'd sealed the victory only to see McCann's high pop fly find its way down to the outfield grass.
"Tonight was one of those nights where you had to expect the unexpected," said Glavine, who allowed just two runs -- one earned -- and seven hits over five innings.
Unfortunately for the Braves, their bullpen wasn't as good as Glavine. Nady doubled and scored off Resop in the sixth inning.
Then things got really ugly in the eighth, which began with a Nady solo shot off reliever Manny Acosta. Before Acosta could register the inning's third out, McLouth touched him for a seemingly, disheartening three-run homer that gave the Pirates a four-run lead. They'd add another run in the ninth against Jeff Bennett.
"We just made mistakes tonight with some fastballs from the guys in the bullpen," said Cox, who saw his team lose Sunday night's season opener against the Nationals courtesy of Ryan Zimmmerman's walk-off homer off right-handed reliever Peter Moylan.
Through the first seven innings, it looked like the Braves were just going to keep finding ways to ruin fine efforts provided by their starters. Sunday night's defeat came despite the fact that Tim Hudson had surrendered just two runs over seven innings.
As for Glavine, his fate would have been much better if not for the two-out errors committed by Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar. Both miscues directly led to runs that prevented the southpaw from winning what was his first start for the Braves since 2002.
But Johnson's fumble of a second-inning grounder and Escobar's errant throw in the sevenththa won't be nearly as memorable as the miscommunication blunder staged by Pirates left fielder Jason Bay and McLouth.
When McCann lofted a lazy two-out fly to shallow left field, it appeared that the Pirates had stopped the ninth-inning bleeding and ended the game. But as the ball plopped to the ground, a hustling Chipper Jones raced toward the plate with the tying run, capping a crazy five-run ninth.
"The players put out a good effort tonight, coming back the way that they did," said Braves manager Bobby Cox, who provided the postgame reminder that he and his players had returned from Washington at approximately 4 a.m. ET on Monday.
Nady's three-run homer off Boyer reduced some of the sting the Pirates were feeling after watching the Braves construct the game-tying five-run ninth with the help of just two hits. Damaso Marte and closer Matt Capps ignited the rally by combining to walk four of the first five batters that they faced. Other than McCann's gift single, the inning's only other hit was Jones' two-run single.
While Glavine had reason to feel miffed about his no-decision, Pirates starter Ian Snell, who allowed four earned runs and seven hits over six innings, could feel fortunate that he wasn't saddled with a loss. After enduring a three-run third inning that included a two-run Escobar triple, Snell allowed McCann to begin the fourth with a solo homer.
"There were a lot of things in that game that were ugly, and there's a lot of things that were in that game that you're proud of," Glavine said. "I think we showed a lot of character coming back a couple of times and showing what we're capable of doing."
After two games, the Braves only truly know how disheartening one-run losses can be. Having lost 25 of the 43 one-run games last year, they don't need to be reminded how much of a difference those games can make in a pennant race.
"One-run games, that's how you get to the postseason," McCann said. "You've got to win them. Hopefully, we can get on the right track."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.