Bucs rally late but fall to Braves
Chacon surrenders game-winning hit in the ninth
ATLANTA -- As Shawn Chacon walked off the mound after allowing a game-winning hit to Atlanta right fielder Jeff Francoeur, he didn't head to the shower. He didn't head to his locker to sulk. He went straight to the video machine to spot what exactly had gone wrong.
"I wanted to take a look at my mechanics because something was out of whack," said Chacon, "and I wanted to see that last at-bat of Francoeur's."
That last at-bat by Francoeur was a walk-off RBI single up the middle that sent the Pirates away with a bitter, 5-4, loss in a game at Turner Field that featured a scrappy Pirates comeback attempt and a 1-hour, 12-minute rain delay before a heartbreaking loss.
It may have been a 'Christmas in July' theme night at Turner Field, but as the Pirates left the field on Saturday night, there was more of that feeling of a boy who had just discovered coal in his stocking than one who had found newly wrapped presents under the tree. Chacon exuded that disappointment.
"It's kind of hard," said Chacon, who allowed an uncharacteristic four walks (one intentional) in his 1 2/3 innings of work. "You have to get it done. You have to get them out."
He had one inning earlier to preserve the tie. By no means was Chacon his usual dominant self, but he proved to be quite slick at escaping out of an eighth-inning jam when the Braves seemed poised to take the lead in what was then a 4-4 game.
After a single and two walks loaded the bases with one out in the eighth, Chacon induced a flyout and a strikeout to preserve the tie. However, it only delayed the inevitable.
With one on and two out an inning later, Pirates manager Jim Tracy elected to intentionally walk Chipper Jones. Andruw Jones followed with a walk to load the bases, though Chacon's 2-2 pitch to the Atlanta center fielder couldn't have missed by more than an inch.
"I thought so," Chacon said of having Jones struck out. "Those can go either way. That one didn't go my way."
Instead of a Chacon strikeout to send the game into extra innings, Francoeur treated those of the 44,014 who had stuck out the rain delay to his fifth game-winning RBI. Those who had sat through the delay watched a documentary of Francoeur's journey to Atlanta that featured his knack for game-winning highlights. And for the Pirates, it was therefore unfairly fitting that Francoeur would add another one to the reel.
"I guess I only had so many lives," said Chacon, who picked up his first loss since June 10. "I'm not a cat, so I didn't have enough lives yet. I had used them all in the eighth."
While Chacon wasn't going to blame the loss on the fact that he hadn't pitched in over a week, he did say there were some mechanical issues he had to work through, and a little rust to work off. But for much of the night, it didn't appear as if there would an opportunity for the Pirates bullpen to lose the game.
For the second straight day, the Pirates were held scoreless by the Braves starter, this time the nemesis being lefty Chuck James, who followed up a May 12 performance in which he allowed one hit in seven innings to the Pirates by allowing only two Pittsburgh hits on Saturday. But when James exited after six innings of work, the Pirates offense came to life with a four-run seventh to tie the game.
The fun started after Jason Bay scored on Ronny Paulino's infield hit and Chipper Jones' throwing error. Ryan Doumit then staged some two-out magic. Doumit, who had been sidelined as a precaution with a sore left hamstring, came in to pinch-hit for Pirates starter Tom Gorzelanny. Fortunately, he didn't have to worry about a strenuous race around the basepaths.
A three-run home run took care of that.
"It was a big lift coming when it did," said Doumit, who also had a pinch-hit home run back on May 18 against the Diamondbacks. "[It stinks] that the rain delay happened when it did. [It] killed the momentum a little bit."
That rain delay arrived only minutes after Doumit's blast, which seemed to almost perfectly coincide with the shift from a steady rain to a heavy downpour over the field. And only minutes later, the game was halted for over an hour as the storm cell passed through.
Gorzelanny summed up the resonating feeling quite succinctly.
"Big hit. Rain came and kind of killed it," the left-hander said.
Despite the impressive and willful Pittsburgh rally, the Pirates never quite seemed to be in control at any point on Saturday. The Braves were the ones putting runners on base at will, with the Pirates seemingly always one step behind.
"We basically had our backs to the wall the whole game trying to play catch-up," said Tracy, whose club now won't be able to extend the four-series win streak it had been riding. "We never really had the advantage in the game tonight."
They had been in the hole since the first, when the Braves tagged Gorzelanny for three quick runs. The final two runs came when Andruw Jones sliced a ball over the wall in right field. It was only the fifth opposite-field hit for Andruw Jones all season, but he read the changeup from Gorzelanny all the way.
The ball didn't seem to have enough carry off Jones' bat to leave the park: "It kind of surprised me," Tracy said.
However, it proved to have just enough distance to land just beyond the outfield fence for a deflating two-run home run.
"That's why he's Andruw Jones," said Gorzelanny, who matched his career high with seven strikeouts. "[It's] a tough one to swallow."
As was the loss. It marked the fifth time this season that the Pirates fell in a game that was tied after eight innings, and it wasn't exactly what the streaking team had in mind following the All-Star break. But like Friday's game, this one has likely already been forgotten.
"That could take something out of us," Chacon said. "But I don't think this team will let it."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.