Andrew McCutchen plays with bruised elbow but Pirates lose to Braves 2-1



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PITTSBURGH — Andrew McCutchen texted Clint Hurdle on Sunday morning and told the Pittsburgh Pirates manager his bruised left elbow was just fine.

The star center fielder experimented with several protective pads before settling on a large, black one. It hardly appeared to be an issue during his four plate appearances, which included three long fly balls and a single.

"I just found whatever worked," McCutchen said. "I tried on a couple of them. Said, 'This one worked.' Pretty easy. Pretty simple. I was fine."

So was Atlanta starter Alex Wood. The left-hander kept the Pirates off balance for more than seven innings as the Braves held on for a 2-1 win to snap a five-game losing streak and prevent the Pirates from picking up their ninth series sweep of the season.

"He made pitches and he worked through (situations)," Hurdle said. "We didn't have a lot of situations to push him."

Pittsburgh's best chance came in the seventh when McCutchen and Starling Marte hit consecutive singles to start the inning. Francisco Cervelli, a .389 batter against lefties this season, tried to bunt for a hit. Wood deftly pounced on it and nipped Cervelli at first. He was credited with a sacrifice as the runners moved up, but they never advanced. Wood struck out Jordy Mercer and got Sean Rodriguez on a popup.

Hurdle didn't order the bunt, but hardly took issue with the attempt.

"He thought he was going to make a baseball play and give the guy behind him an opportunity," Hurdle said. "(Wood) made a good play. I don't have a 'Don't bunt for a base hit' sign. He had a feel for it."

Cervelli said he would try it again if given the opportunity.

"I trust my teammates," he said. "We've got everybody's back, so I just put it there."

Atlanta didn't do much against Pittsburgh starter Jeff Locke (4-4), who allowed only an RBI single by Nick Markakis in the fifth. Locke walked five and struck out three, running up his pitch count. He left after the fifth.

Jace Peterson homered off reliever Vance Worley in the seventh to give the Braves a little breathing room.

"I felt I could have attacked a little more and eat another inning or two," Locke said. "But the guys behind me did a good job."

Jason Grilli, an All-Star closer for the Pirates in 2013 who took the loss in a 10-inning defeat Friday, made Wood's hard work hold up but not without some excitement.

Cervelli walked with two outs in the ninth and Jordy Mercer had an RBI double for his third hit. Center fielder Cameron Maybin and left fielder Eury Perez collided as both tried to make the catch at the wall in left-center. Perez stayed down for several moments but walked off the field without assistance.

Grilli struck out pinch-hitter Gregory Polanco for his 21st save in 23 chances.

"The kid went out there, he battled, tried to cover some fastballs," Hurdle said. "(Grilli) made a good pitch late. I thought the kid gave it a good shot trying to get something done."

McCutchen appeared just fine less than 24 hours after the first inning of Saturday's game, when Teheran's 92 mph fastball smacked him in the elbow — the eighth time this season and the 48th time in his career he's been hit. The 2013 NL MVP joked he might need to "drop kick" an opposing pitcher to stop getting buzzed.

There were no such fireworks. While Wood did hit Jung Ho Kang with a pitch in the first inning, the left-hander never came close to McCutchen. The Pirates spent most of Wood's outing rarely coming close to his eclectic mix.

MOVING UP, MOVING OUT

The odd career of Pirates OF Jose Tabata took another turn when Pittsburgh designated him for assignment for a second time. Tabata, who signed a six-year contract in 2011 and is due $4 million this season, hit .289 in 27 games with the Pirates after beginning the season at Triple-A Indianapolis.

General manager Neal Huntington said he believes Tabata is open to returning to the minors if he clears waivers. The Pirates called up OF Gorkys Hernandez and immediately inserted him into the lineup. Hernandez went hitless in his first appearance in the majors since 2012.

UP NEXT

Braves: Atlanta returns home for a three-game series with Washington beginning on Tuesday. Shelby Miller (5-3, 1.94 ERA) goes for his first victory in nearly six weeks.

Pirates: Gerrit Cole will try to bounce back from his worst performance of the year when the Pirates open a three-game set in Detroit on Tuesday. Cole (11-3, 2.16 ERA) leads the majors in wins but was touched up by Cincinnati for a season-high five runs in 4 2-3 innings last Wednesday, his first loss in more than a month.

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