Braves defeat Pirates thanks to a contentious plate call in the 8th inning

A controversial call at the plate is nothing new in a game involving the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Atlanta Braves, so there were bound to boos when the Braves scored the winning run on a contested call.

Michael Harris tagged from third on Austin Riley’s sacrifice fly to Pirates second baseman Jared Triolo and was signaled safe after making a head-first slide past catcher Endy Rodriguez.

The Pirates appealed that Harris left early, so Rodriguez threw to third base for what appeared to be the final out of the eighth inning in a tied game. Instead, after a rules check, Harris was called safe and the Braves won 6-5 on Wednesday night before 17,639 at PNC Park.





“When the play happens and they call it on the field, you’re sitting in a good spot,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “I think we all know with replay and the reason replay is in is to make sure they get the play right. Any time there’s a close play, I think you have to control any enthusiasm one way or another until you get a call.”

Given the teams involved, the contention surrounding a play at the plate stirred bad memories for Pirates fans, who still harbor hard feelings over what is referred to as the Jerry Meals Game.

Meals was the home plate umpire who ruled that catcher Michael McKenry failed to tag Julio Lugo in Atlanta’s 4-3 win in 19 innings on July 27, 2011. It was a call for which MLB later apologized as the Pirates were one game out of first place at the time and trying to end a 19-year losing streak that was the longest in North American pro sports.

That’s not to forget the most infamous play at the plate between the teams, when Sid Bream slid to beat Barry Bonds’ throw from left field and score the winning run on Francisco Cabrera’s pinch-hit single in the ninth inning for a 3-2 win in Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS.

This time, the controversy came not on a tag but a tag-up. The Pirates had tied the score 5-5 in the bottom of the seventh when Ke’Bryan Hayes hit a 405-foot home run into the bullpen, his seventh of the season and second in as many days against the Braves.

Harris started the eighth with a leadoff single off Carmen Mlodzinski and advanced to second on a single by Ronald Acuna Jr.’s and to third on a forceout. Then came a moment that could prove a learning lesson for a pair of rookies playing out of their natural positions.

Triolo, a third baseman playing second, chased Riley’s sky-high fly ball into shallow right field. Triolo called off the incoming Henry Davis, a catcher playing right field, to make the catch.

“The ball came back a little bit so I caught it a little funny, and it took an extra second to throw it home,” Triolo said. “I guess (Harris) had a really good jump off the bag on it.”

Pirates manager Derek Shelton said Davis should have taken the initiative on the play, given his forward momentum and stronger arm.

“If Henry can get there, he’s gotta catch that ball,” Shelton said. “He’s moving forward, he’s moving toward the ball. Jared’s running not only back, but he’s running at an angle because of where’s he set up defensively. If Henry can get there, yeah, we’d prefer he catch that ball.”

Harris sprinted to home plate, beating Triolo’s throw and the tag by Rodriguez on a head-first slide as he was signaled safe by home plate umpire Mike Muchlinski. The Pirates immediately appealed, and Harris was called out. Then came the review.

It made for a tense few minutes. After the play was called out on appeal, the Pirates left the field and awaited the decision from MLB offices in New York. Once it was overturned, they were forced to return with two outs and a runner on second base. Mlodzinski intentionally walked Matt Olson and walked Sean Murphy to load the bases before striking out Marcell Ozuna to end the inning.

“I mean, it sucks, obviously, just because it was a play for them to take the lead,” Hayes said. “Once they do the replay, whatever they call in New York, that’s the final say. Once they overturned it, you gotta get back out there, make the next play and get off the field. Luckily, we were able to keep it to a one-run ballgame, give ourselves a chance in that last inning. Just happened to come up short.”

The Braves scored four runs against Pirates starter Quinn Priester, who allowed nine hits and one walk while striking out four in four innings.

They took a 1-0 lead in the second inning, when Orlando Arcia hit a two-out double off the bottom of the Clemente Wall in right field and scored on a single to center by Harris. They increased their lead to 2-0 in the third when Riley singled, advanced to second on Olson’s groundout to second and scored on a bloop single to center by Murphy.

Eddie Rosario hit a leadoff single in the fourth, advanced to second on Priester’s wild pitch, to third on a Harris groundout and scored on Acuna’s double down the left-field line for a 3-0 Braves lead. Acuna reached third on another wild pitch, then scored when Albies singled to right field to stretch Atlanta’s lead to four runs.

The Pirates finally got to Braves left-hander Max Fried, making his second start after a 60-day stint on the injured list with a forearm strain, with a four-run rally in the fourth to tie the score. Fried allowed four runs on six hits with one walk, one hit batsman and four strikeouts on 79 pitches in four innings.

They loaded the bases when Davis drew a one-out walk, Rodriguez singled to right and Jack Suwinski was hit by a pitch. Triolo hit a slow roller to short and sprinted to beat Arcia’s throw to first, scoring Davis to cut it to 4-1. Rodriguez scored on Alika Williams’ groundout to short to make it 4-2, and Hayes hit a bouncer through the middle to drive in Suwinski and Triolo to knot the score.

Angel Perdomo replaced Priester and struck out four of the first five batters he faced before giving up a double to Harris with one out in the sixth. The Pirates turned to righty reliever Colin Selby to make his major-league debut, but Acuna reached on a soft grounder to third when Hayes’ throw pulled Connor Joe off first base. Albies followed with a single to left to score Harris for a 5-4 lead.

After recording his first career strikeout by getting Riley swinging at a slider low and away, Selby intentionally walked Olson to load the bases and got Murphy to ground out to first when Joe made a diving stop. Selby allowed two hits and one walk and struck out three in 1 2/3 innings.

Hayes hit Collin McHugh’s 3-1 sweeper for a home run to tie the score, and the Braves answered with the play that stirred controversy. The Pirates stranded a pair of runners against A.J. Minter in the eighth inning.

In the ninth, after Reynolds hit a deep fly ball that Acuna caught against the Clemente Wall, Andrew McCutchen hit a two-out single to center off Braves closer Raisel Iglesias. Alfonso Rivas followed with a full-count single to right to put runners on first and third. But Davis went down looking at a called third strike to end the game.

“It still stings because you want to win the game,” Shelton said. “We were in a deficit game twice. We tied the game back up. We had the winning run on base. We had the tying run at third when the game ended. They continue to play against the best team in the National League and, maybe, in baseball. I think the biggest thing that our guys have to take away from it is there’s no letup. … You have to execute at all times.”