PITTSBURGH – The Braves will not take any club lightly, but just in case you believed they would come in here and run the Pirates off the field, here is some news:

They have not.

These have been three entertaining games. And on Wednesday, the Braves won, 6-5, in a game decided by Michael Harris II’s instinctual play.

Atlanta can take three of four with a win on Thursday.

Five observations:

1. When Austin Riley made contact in the eighth inning, Harris stood at third base. Behind him, third-base coach Ron Washington told Harris to tag up.

And when Washington saw that Riley hit the ball to shallow right field, he immediately told Harris to fake tagging up – to deke it.

“In my head, I’m like, ‘Nah, I’m gonna try to win this game, so I’m getting to the plate,’” Harris recalled.

In the outfield, Pirates second baseman Jared Triolo ran back and right fielder Henry Davis ran forward. They converged on the ball.

Triolo caught it, with his momentum taking him back, so Harris tagged up and bolted toward home. He slid in safely ahead of the throw.

At first, the Pirates believed Harris left third base early, so they appealed the call, and Harris was out for leaving early. But the Braves challenged the play.

The ruling: Harris actually properly tagged up. He scored, and the Braves had a late lead.

Harris was surprised the second baseman caught it instead of the outfielder.

“Yeah, that’s the whole reason I went,” he said. “I guess you learn, when you go through infield-outfield situations as a team, the outfielder has priority over the infielder – and definitely in a situation like that. I guess I just took advantage of it and tried to get us a run.”

2. The Braves’ offense built a four-run lead in the early innings. This would usually be enough for Max Fried.

On this night, though, he struggled in a four-run fourth inning. The Pirates didn’t collect any extra-base hits, but they did put the ball in play. Plus, Fried walked one batter and hit another.

The big hit: Ke’Bryan Hayes took a fastball up and away and turned it into a two-run single.

“I was trying to get it in and I left it out over the plate, and he was able to get to it and made a good swing and was able to get it in the outfield and score a couple runs,” Fried said. “Obviously would have liked to execute better and throw the ball where I would have wanted, but I still was making some competitive pitches and put the ball over, and you just got to give them credit.”

3. Fried’s night ended at four innings and 79 pitches.

No thought to sending him back out?

“No, hell no,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “No way, after all those pitches. …That’s what we’ll do, we’ll monitor stressful innings for a guy like that. When you send him back out there, you’re just asking for trouble.”

The Braves, of course, will be cautious with anyone, especially their ace. But Fried’s outing was Atlanta’s fifth short start in a row, which was not ideal because ...

The Braves don’t have another off day until Aug. 17. And they have a doubleheader Saturday.

“It’s about the individuals,” Snitker said. “We had guys that we could pitch. There’s guys that you don’t want to use. But that was about Max and his health, and getting through the rest of the year. When he’s through four innings in 80 pitches, it’s not going real good for you.”

4. The Braves have scored at least six runs in six of their last seven games. In the seventh, they plated four runs.

Their lineup’s performance has been extra important because of what we’ll discuss next.

5. Since the All-Star break, Atlanta’s starting pitchers have combined for a 6.03 ERA, which is the second-worst mark in baseball behind the Pirates rotation’s 6.12 ERA in that span.

The Braves remain confident in their group.

“You’ve seen what these guys have done throughout the year,” Fried said. “They’ve been extremely reliable and a big reason for our success. They’ve gone out there and taken the ball every fifth day and kept us in ballgames, and we’ve been able to have a really good, winning record. It’s unfortunate that everyone’s had their little bit of a rough outing, but I’m confident that we’re going to be able to right the ship, get on track. And the idea is to be peaking at the right time here.”

Stat to know

115 - The Braves’ starters have combined to pitch only 115 innings since the All-Star break – sixth-fewest in baseball in that time.


“I knew that I wasn’t the sharpest and things were kind of falling off that way. (Snitker is) the manager and he makes the calls, so I’m not gonna really fight him too much. But I know that going forward, I’m gonna be a lot more prepared and ready, and (I’m) looking forward to kind of taking that ball and getting deeper into games and adding to the pitch count.” - Fried on not coming back out for the fifth inning

Up next

Bryce Elder will start Thursday’s series finale, which begins at 12:35 a.m. Lefty Bailey Falter will pitch for Pittsburgh.

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