Braves’ bats slam Bucs
ATLANTA – Kris Medlen stuck to his game plan through the longest losing streak of his career: Keep games close and give Atlanta’s powerful offense a chance to come through.
Finally, the lineup showed up in a big way on Monday night.
Brian McCann, Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman each hit a two-run homer, leading Medlen and the Braves to a 7-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Medlen (2-6) pitched seven solid innings for his first win since April 9, ending a career-worst, five-game skid over his previous nine starts. The right-hander allowed an unearned run and seven hits, lowering his ERA to 3.14.
Medlen didn’t have to be reminded that he had to wait almost two months for his second win.
“It’s been a while, yeah,” he said.
“I always try to keep our team in the game. However many runs we’re scoring or however many runs I’m giving up, I always try to keep it as close as I can. With our offense, we’re an explosive-style offense as you saw today. Keep them close and we can win a game with a two- or three-run home run.”
Medlen was 10-1 with a 1.57 ERA in 2012, when he began the season in the bullpen before moving to the rotation and posting a 9-0 record in 12 starts.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Minor “got some run support – finally.”
Heyward, who was held out of the lineup on Sunday, had two hits. He began the day with a .142 batting average and snapped a 0-for-19 slump with his first-inning single.
“Maybe that will get him going and get him back to the real Jason Heyward that we like,” Gonzalez said.
Pittsburgh catcher Russell Martin and manager Clint Hurdle were ejected by home plate umpire Dan Iassogna in the fourth inning.
A.J. Burnett (3-6) yielded a season-high six runs in five innings. He allowed eight hits, including three homers, and walked three.
The three homers allowed matched Burnett’s career high. He last allowed three homers in a 6-5 loss to Tampa Bay on May 16, 2011.
Pittsburgh scored its only run against Medlen when Gaby Sanchez’s ground-rule double in the third drove in Neil Walker, who was hit by a pitch. Walker advanced to second on a throwing error by center fielder B.J. Upton.
McCann connected for his seventh homer in the fourth. Chris Johnson then doubled and was at second when Medlen’s two-out at-bat featured a couple of testy exchanges between Iassogna and the Pirates.
Burnett complained about the ball one call to Medlen, and Iassogna stepped in front of the plate to warn the pitcher.
After the second ball was called, Martin apparently complained as he took a couple of steps toward the mound with his back to the umpire. Martin was then thrown out by Iassogna, and the catcher turned to protest.
Hurdle charged from the dugout to take over the argument and also was thrown out.
Martin said he cursed after the second ball but said the profanity was not directed at Iassogna.
“I was frustrated and I got up and that’s it,” Martin said. “That’s all that happened. That’s exactly what happened. And he threw me out for that.”
Martin said he thought the quick ejection was an emotional reaction by Iassogna. Hurdle said for Martin “to get tossed walking away from the umpire, never turning his head, never saying anything, was disappointing.”
Michael McKenry replaced Martin behind the plate.
Heyward and Freeman homered during a string of fourth straight hits to open the fifth. Burnett said he fell behind in too many counts.
“I was making pitches early but that last inning I wasn’t able to make pitches,” Burnett said. “I got behind hitters. That’s a good-swinging team and you can’t get behind them. Especially throwing cookies in there when you do get behind them.
“It was once of those nights where I wasn’t able to get ahead later in the game.”
Justin Upton singled off Mike Zagurski in the seventh, moved to third on McCann’s single and scored on Johnson’s fly ball to left field. The single was McCann’s 1,000th career hit.
Fans responded to the announcement of the milestone with an ovation for McCann, who tipped his helmet while standing on first base.
“It’s a cool moment,” McCann said.
The Pirates recalled right-hander Jared Hughes and selected the contract of right-hander Ryan Reid from Triple-A Indianapolis before the game.
Hughes gave up one hit in a scoreless sixth inning. Reid made his major league debut when he induced a bases-loaded grounder from pinch hitter Reed Johnson for the final out of the seventh. Reid also pitched a perfect eighth.
Clint Barmes’ double with two outs in the ninth off Braves rookie Alex Wood drove in Gaby Sanchez, who led off with a single.
Game notes: The Pirates gave OF Andrew McCutchen a day off. … Braves 3B Juan Francisco, who was designated for assignment last week, was traded to Milwaukee Brewers for minor league LHP Tom Keeling, who was assigned to Double-A Mississippi. … Braves RHP Brandon Beachy gave up six hits and three runs in five innings for Double-A Mississippi at Chattanooga as he continued his rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery. …