ATLANTA -- In the end, the Pirates' bullpen could only pull off their recurring escape act so many times.
The Braves put a runner in scoring position every inning from the seventh onward, and in the 10th, Pittsburgh reliever Mark Melancon finally blinked. Melancon gave up a walk-off double to Andrelton Simmons and the Pirates succumbed to a 5-4 loss on Tuesday night at Turner Field.
Pirates starter Jeff Locke exited with a 4-2 lead after dealing with runners in scoring position in four of the six innings he pitched, and the best efforts of relievers Tony Watson and Jason Grilli to keep the Braves off the board after B.J. Upton's game-tying two-run home run in the sixth only delayed the inevitable. The Braves stranded 13 runners on Tuesday night, but Simmons' double to the wall secured their sixth extra-inning win this season.
Watson got himself out of a jam in the eighth to keep the score tied. Watson issued back-to-back walks and a wild pitch to move up the runners to second and third. An intentional walk loaded the bases for Simmons, who grounded out to shortstop Jordy Mercer.
Freddie Freeman appeared to have ended the game with a long fly ball to right-center in the bottom of the ninth, but it was hauled in at the wall by Andrew McCutchen, just shy of a walk-off two-run homer.
After the Pirates went down in order in the top of the 10th, Melancon walked Dan Uggla and hit Reed Johnson to put two men on with one out. Simmons stepped in for the second time in a critical spot and connected on Melancon's 1-1 fastball to easily score Uggla from second.
"I kept missing down and away, I don't know what it was," Melancon said. "I was just pulling them."
The Braves' offense taxed Locke with patience at the plate and timely two-out hitting, forcing the lefty out of the game with two outs in the sixth after 103 pitches, one shy of his career high.
"I felt good, but it was a lot of pitches, and we haven't really gotten up there a whole lot this season," Locke said.
Making the second relief appearance of his big league career, Ryan Reid came in for Locke and promptly surrendered the home run to Upton, the Braves center fielder's second in three games.
"[Reid] got him down in the count and threw a two-seamer that ran back over the plate," manager Clint Hurdle said.
Locke, a former Braves prospect who was traded to Pittsburgh in return for Nate McLouth four years ago Monday night, ran into trouble in the bottom half of the third when Freeman reached out over the plate to poke a two-run double of his own down the left-field line to cut the deficit to 3-2. Locke got out of the third without any further damage but used 32 pitches in the frame, running up the number of stressful pitches he threw early.
"He just absolutely battled through the whole game," Hurdle said. "It was a very professional attitude from Jeff, very gutsy effort."
The Pirates found the power stroke that eluded them in Monday's series opener, jumping out to an early lead thanks to a pair of solo home runs off Braves starter Mike Minor. After pulling a pitch just wide of the foul pole earlier in his at-bat, Gaby Sanchez drilled his eighth homer of the year deep to left-center to lead off the second inning.
"Usually, you don't see a pitch like that again. Your mind is, 'Just make hard contact somewhere,'" Sanchez said. "He came back with another one and I was able to put the barrel to it."
Then with two outs in the fourth, Pedro Alvarez bested his former Vanderbilt teammate with a solo shot the opposite way, Alvarez's team-leading 12th homer of the year.
"I threw him a slider and a curveball and he didn't touch either one. I should have gone back to it," Minor said. "It was just one of those I thought-he thought' things. So, we went back to the fastball. He's got a quick bat and I know that from college. He can hit it to all fields. He crushed that ball."
The Pirates shuffled the lineup as much as they could from Monday night's 7-2 loss, reinserting Andrew McCutchen, sitting Neil Walker and Garrett Jones, and even starting Russell Martin in right field for the first time in the veteran catcher's career.
As the Braves climbed back into the game and the bullpen began to buckle after another short outing by a starting pitcher, Walker and Jones entered and Martin moved back behind the plate, but the Pirates could not avoid the same frustrating result.
Eric Single is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.