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Braves fall short in home opener

POSTED: April 12, 2008 5:00 a.m.
The Associated Press/

Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson, left, forces out Atlanta Braves Jeff Francoeur on a Mark Kotsay ground ball in the fourth inning Monday in Atlanta.

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ATLANTA — Tom Glavine’s homecoming was long forgotten by the time Pittsburgh finally got the win.

Xavier Nady hit his second homer of the game, a three-run shot in the 12th inning, and the Pittsburgh Pirates overcame a horrific ninth to ruin Atlanta’s home opener, winning 12-11 on Monday night.

The Braves took advantage of four walks and a huge defensive blunder to erase the Pirates’ 9-4 lead. But Nady, who led off the eighth with a homer, lined a 2-0 pitch from Blaine Boyer (0-1) into the right-field seats with two outs and two aboard in the 12th.

Franquelis Osoria (0-1) pitched three innings for his first major league win. But it was in doubt right to the end: Jeff Francoeur homered, Matt Diaz had an RBI single and the Braves had the potential tying run on base when Corky Miller flied out to center, ending the 4-hour, 28-minute marathon.

Glavine left after the fifth, turning over a 4-2 lead to a bullpen that couldn’t hold it. Most of the crowd of 45,269 broke for home on a cool night when Pittsburgh went ahead with a four-run eighth off Manny Acosta. They missed quite a finish.

The Pirates had a five-run cushion with Atlanta down to its last three outs, but no lead is safe for a franchise that hasn’t had a winning season since 1992.

Damaso Marte walked two, then closer Matt Capps walked two more to bring home a run. Chipper Jones followed with a two-run single, making it 9-7, then it looked as though Pittsburgh would escape. Mark Teixeira popped out, slapping his helmet in disgust, and Brian McCann followed with a soft fly to left.

Game over?

Not so fast.

Jason Bay inexplicably ran by the ball, apparently thinking Nate McLouth had called him off. But the ball fell between them, allowing the two runs to score.

John Russell watched stoically from the Pirates dugout in his first game as a big league manager, perhaps wondering what he’d gotten himself into.

Glavine was the big story at the start of the night, returning to the Braves after five seasons with the New York Mets. He lasted five innings, giving up one earned run.

The 42-year-old left-hander has clearly lost a bit of the stuff that carried him to five 20-win seasons and two NL Cy Young Awards during his first 16 seasons with the Braves. Working from behind to all but five of 22 hitters, Glavine surrendered seven hits, walked two and threw 97 pitches — only 52 for strikes.

But at least it was better than his last outing with the Mets. Glavine was charged with seven runs and got only one out in the second-shortest start of his career, a loss to the Florida
Marlins on the final day of the season to complete New York’s historic collapse in the NL East race.

With the game tied at 4, the Pirates teed off on Manny Acosta in the eighth. He gave up the homer to Nady after getting two quick strikes. McLouth lined another one over the right-field wall in nearly the same spot for a three-run homer.

McLouth also had a run-scoring single in the fourth, equaling his career high with four RBIs.

Yunel Escobar, taking over a shortstop for Edgar Renteria, went 3-for-4 with three RBIs but made a costly throwing error that allowed the tying run to score in the seventh. McCann homered for the Braves.

After beginning the season with a ninth-inning loss in the opener for Washington’s new stadium, the Braves returned home on a night filled with nostalgia from those years when Atlanta always made the playoffs.

Longtime Braves catcher Javy Lopez, who retired after a failed comeback attempt in spring training, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Then it was Glavine’s turn to throw pitches that counted, back with the team where he spent the first 16 years of his 303-win career. He got a standing ovation from the fans who booed him lustily a bitter contract dispute with Atlanta led him to sign with the Mets.

Glavine was helped out by new Braves center fielder Mark Kotsay, who made a play reminiscent of the guy he replaced. Kotsay threw out Jack Wilson at home to end the fourth, making a good first impression on a town that watched 10-time Gold Glover Andruw Jones do those sort of things for more than a decade before he signed with the Dodgers.

The Braves had more troubles than highlights on defense, however, making three errors.

Kelly Johnson bobbled away an easy grounder in the second that should have been the third out, allowing an unearned run to score off Glavine. When the Braves had a chance to get out of a seventh-inning jam without the tying run scoring, Escobar one-hopped a throw to first that Teixeira couldn’t scoop.



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