Pitching, defense and timely hitting win championships. Today the Braves shut out the Pirates in eight of nine innings. Andrelton Simmons and Jace Peterson made major league defensive plays, and the rest of the Braves caught everything that was hit at them.

With bats in their hands and runners in scoring position, the Braves’ hitting was less than timely. Although they collected six hits, four walks and were plunked twice, the Braves did not score. With runners in scoring position in seven at bats, our players flailed and failed. It’s hard to win when you don’t score.

Alex Wood shut out the Pirates for four innings. In the fifth, after an opening strikeout, Alex walked the plank.

Not really, but he did walk Gerrit Cole. Josh Harrison followed with a single. Then Jordy Mercer singled to load the bases with one out for Andrew McCutchen. But Alex rallied and struck out McCutchen, and hope blossomed. Alas, Starling Marte singled, driving in two; and Jung Ho Kang followed with an rbi single of his own. BALL GAME.

Wood retired Jose Tabata, mercifully closing out the fifth, but the game was already lost. Wood challenged home plate umpire Mark Carlson on his strike zone, walked to the dugout only to discover he’d been ejected. “I didn’t know I’d been thrown out until I heard it in the clubhouse,” Peanut reported Wood as saying.

Based on results achieved, this was the best game the Braves bullpen has had in quite a while. Cody Martin pitched a scoreless sixth; Brandon Cunniff got the Pirates six up and six down in the seventh and eighth, and Trevor Cahill held the Bucs off the board in the ninth, although he tried not to. A nifty Jace to Simba to Freddie double play followed by a good play by Jace kept the deficit at three.

Three was three too many. Braves lose.

Of note:
Gerrit Cole throws hard. He nailed Freddie in the lower leg with a 97 mph pitch in the third. Then he hit Andrelton in the left armpit with perhaps an even faster pitch in the fourth. Ouch.The Braves loaded the bases with one out in third and the sixth. We ain’t scored yet.

Despite the Braves’ futility, today was a very good day. Today’s a good day because it’s the birthday of the most beautiful girl in the world. Sophia Grace Wolfe is four years old today, and she is the most beautiful girl in the world; but don’t tell her older sister or her mother or her grandmother that. It will be our secret.