Pirates' win delays Braves clinching playoff spot
ATLANTA (AP) — Ronald Acuña Jr. and the Atlanta Braves were agitated before the end of the first inning. It proved to be the start of a long night.
Bryan Reynolds had three hits, including a two-run homer, and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat Atlanta 8-4 to prevent the Braves from becoming the first major league team to clinch a playoff berth Saturday.
The Braves, who lead the majors with 92 wins, are 14 games ahead of second-place Philadelphia in their bid for a sixth consecutive NL East title. They need one more victory to clinch no worse than a wild card.
After completing their series with Pittsburgh, the Braves will begin a four-game series in Philadelphia on Monday.
Tensions rose and benches cleared in the first inning when Johan Oviedo’s fourth pitch backed Acuña off the plate. Acuña glared at Oviedo after the thigh-high pitch. Oviedo returned the glare and then began shouting at Acuña as he walked toward the plate.
“Emotions just peaked,” Acuña said through a translator.
Home plate umpire Rob Drake stepped in front of Acuña as players from each bullpen and bench spilled onto the field. No punches were thrown.
“I think those are just things that are part of the game and things that happen in the game stay in the game,” Acuña said.
Oviedo walked Acuña on the next pitch and Acuña again stared at the pitcher as he walked to first base. Acuña was caught stealing on Oviedo’s first pitch to Ozzie Albies.
Braves manager Brian Snitker, ejected later in the game, said he “absolutely” believed Acuña was justified in being upset.
“I would be, too, if I was him,” Snitker said. “He holds his composure pretty well and that's the first time I've seen him react like that. I don't blame him one bit. I don't blame him for doing that.”
After giving up back-to-back, run-scoring singles to Acuña and Albies in the fourth, Oviedo hit Austin Riley with a pitch on Riley’s left arm. Snitker was ejected by first base umpire Bill Miller after coming out of the dugout to argue.
Snitker said no warnings had been issued after the inside pitch to Acuña.
“We just had a difference of opinion about things,” Snitker said of his argument with Miller.
As Snitker jawed with Miller, Pirates manager Derek Shelton already had made a move to remove Oviedo, who allowed three runs on nine hits in 3 2/3 innings, and bring in left-hander Ryan Borucki (2-0).
The Pirates took the lead by scoring three runs in the fifth. Endy Rodriguez delivered an RBI single off Michael Tonkin for a 4-3 lead. Jack Suwinski and Ji Hwan Bae also had run-scoring singles in the inning. Bae scored from first on Ke'Bryan Hayes' double in the third.
Reynolds homered off Dylan Dodd (2-2) in the third. Liover Peguero added to the lead with a home run off Kirby Yates in the ninth.
Miguel Andujar had three hits for Pittsburgh.
Atlanta's Matt Olson hit his major league-leading 48th homer off Carmen Mlodzinski in the seventh, his fifth in the last six games.
Acuña reached base four times, on two singles and two walks.
In a pregame ceremony, the Braves retired the No. 25 of 10-time Gold Glove center fielder Andruw Jones.
SAVING THE 'PEN
Dodd, making his sixth start of the season with Atlanta, allowed four runs in four-plus innings. Snitker said the work by Dodd, combined with right-hander Darius Vines' three innings in relief, protected the bullpen for games Sunday and a doubleheader at Philadelphia on Monday.
“You would like to see a better result, but under the circumstance our bullpen is in better shape,” Snitker said.
Pirates: OF/C Henry Davis (right hand muscle strain) homered as he began his rehab assignment with Triple-A Indianapolis. Davis has been on the 10-day injured list since Aug. 21.
Braves: 3B Austin Riley (illness) had one hit, a first-inning single, in his return after missing two games. ... Dodd was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett and RHP Ben Heller was optioned to Gwinnett.
RHP Alan Winans (1-1, 5.17 ERA in three games) will be recalled to start Sunday's finale of the three-game series for Atlanta. RHP Luis Ortiz (4-4, 4.90) starts for the Pirates.
AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb