Braves sweep Pirates with Acuna home run

By John Perrotta

The Associated Press

PITTSBURGH — Jonny Venters thought he had given up a tying home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning.

“It sounded loud,” the Atlanta Braves’ reliever said. “I thought it was gone.”

Gregory Polanco’s drive to right field hit off the top of the 21-foot wall, however, and he was held to a double.

Venters then got Francisco Cervelli to hit a game-ending comebacker, preserving Atlanta’s 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night.

Ronald Acuna Jr. hit another leadoff home run and Freddie Freeman had a tiebreaking sacrifice fly in the eighth inning to lift Julio Teheran and the Braves to a three-game sweep.

Polanco was disappointed his drive did not clear the high wall.

“It’s unbelievable, man,” he said. “I hit the ball really hard. It’s PNC (Park), man. Every other park, that’s a homer.”

Acuna hit the fifth pitch out to left-center off Trevor Williams. It was the rookie’s 20th homer and sixth leading off the first inning, including four in the last two weeks.

“He’s so exciting,” Teheran said. “You expect him to hit a long ball every time he comes up.”

The NL East leaders went ahead 2-1 in the eighth when Freeman, who leads the league in hitting, sent a fly ball to deep left field off Edgar Santana. That came after Atlanta loaded the bases against Kyle Crick (2-2), who did not retire any of the three batters he faced.

“You’d love to score five or six runs every night, but that’s not always going to happen,” Freeman said. “These are the types of games you have to win in a pennant race. It’s a really good win for us.”

Atlanta moved three games ahead of the second-place Phillies, who lost 8-7 at Washington.

Freeman’s sac fly made a winner of Teheran (9-7), who allowed one run and two hits in seven innings while striking out five and walking one. Teheran is 2-0 with a 2.93 ERA in his last five starts.

Brad Brach struck out pinch-hitter David Freese with a runner on third to end the eighth. Venters completed the three-hitter and earned his second save.

Atlanta also mustered only three hits but won for the 17th time in 25 games.

It was seven years to the day since Venters converted his last save for the Braves on Aug. 22, 2011, at the Chicago Cubs. The left-hander missed five major league seasons from 2013-17 while recovering from three Tommy John operations. He returned this year with the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Braves acquired Venters in a July trade and he got his first opportunity to fill in for injured closer A.J. Minter (lower back tightness) on Wednesday.

“I told Jonny I might be using him in some save situations and he was ready,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.

The Pirates got their run in the fifth when Colin Moran broke up Teheran’s no-hit bid with a two-out RBI single. Pittsburgh’s only other hit was a two-out single by Cervelli.