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Nick Gonzales drives in 4 runs, Bailey Falter takes shutout into 8th as Pirates beat Braves 11-5

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PITTSBURGH (AP) — Nick Gonzales drove in a career-high four runs and Bailey Falter carried a shutout into the eighth inning as the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Atlanta Braves 11-5 on Friday night.

Falter (3-2) had a 20-inning scoreless streak over three starts halted in the eighth when Ronald Acuna Jr. hit a three-run home, helping the Braves avoid their first shutout of the season. The 24-year-old left-hander allowed six hits, striking out four and walking one in his first victory since April 23.

“Just rolling as much as possible,” Falter said. “Things aren’t really going to change, I just want to get these guys (out in) three pitches or less, first-ball strikes, no walks and I want to get (our) guys back in the dugout as quick as possible. When we do that, good things like tonight tend to happen.”

Falter did that for most of the game.

“He did a good job,” Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said. “That’s a good lineup, and they can score fast, as we saw in the eighth. He did a really good job moving his fastball to both sides.”

Gonzales opened the scoring by lining a two-out, two-run single to center field in the first inning. He also drove in two runs with a double in the sixth that extended the Pirates’ lead to 10-0.

Gonzales has 13 RBIs in 14 games since being called up from Triple-A Indianapolis on May 10. That is as many runs as the second baseman drove in as a rookie last season in 35 games.

The 24-year-old Gonzales said he is more comfortable in the major leagues now.

“When you first come up, you’re getting your feet wet and there’s a lot of new stuff that you don’t really know, but at the end of the day it is baseball and you’re playing the same game,” Gonzales said. “It’s obviously the highest level, so for me that was a big thing in coming back up. Got my feet wet and tested it out, seeing what I need to adjust and work on it. Those adjustments that I can make now, I’m able to do it.”

Edward Olivares had three of the Pirates’ 14 hits and Andrew McCutchen, Connor Joe and Gonzales had two apiece.

Yasmani Grandal hit a two-run double in the third inning to make it 5-0 and Jared Triolo’s two-run home run to left-center increased the lead to 7-0. Olivares had RBI singles in the third and sixth innings.

Ray Kerr (1-1) gave up five runs and seven hits in four innings in his first major league start following 33 career relief appearances. The left-hander was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett Friday.

“If I get another start, you’ll see a different Ray Kerr,” he said. “I’m better than this.”

The Pirates bounced back after consecutive losses to San Francisco in which they blew a five-run lead on Tuesday and a four-run advantage on Wednesday. The Braves had won three of their previous four games, allowing just six runs.

Acuna’s three-run homer was his fourth of the season in 47 games. He hit 41 last year when he was the NL MVP.

Travis d’Arnaud added a two-run double later in the eighth to get the Braves within 11-5. Acuna, d’Arnaud and Michael Harris II had two hits apiece.

TRANSACTIONS

Braves: Signed INF Joey Wendle to a one-year contract and optioned INF Luke Williams to Gwinnett. Wendle hit .222 with one RBI in 18 games with the New York Mets before being released on May 20. … RHP Darius Vines was optioned to Gwinnett after pitching the final four innings in relief of Kerr. A corresponding roster move will be made on Saturday.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Braves: RHP AJ Smith-Shawyer (strained left oblique) was placed on the 15-day injured list one day after making his season debut and pitching 4 1/3 scoreless innings against the Chicago Cubs. The move opened a roster spot for Kerr. … 3B Austin Riley (left intercostal strain) missed his 11th straight game and is not likely to play until at least Monday.

Pirates: Grandal (strained right groin) returned to the lineup after missing two games.

UP NEXT

Braves RHP Reynaldo Lopez (2-1, 1.54 ERA) will face RHP Mitch Keller (5-3, 3.84 ERA) on Saturday. Lopez’s only win against the Pirates came on Sept. 24, 2016, when he helped Washington clinch the NL East title. Keller is 0-3 with a 9.97 ERA against the Braves in five career starts.

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb

By JOHN PERROTTO
Associated Press

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