Braves shut out for sixth time this month (updated)

All that’s left for the Braves is to play spoiler.

That isn’t even going their way.

A day after being eliminated from playoff contention, the Braves dropped a 1-0 decision to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday night at Turner Field. While the Braves will watch the postseason from the comfort of their living rooms, the Pirates moved closer to a playoff berth.

The Braves (76-80) have lost four in a row, all at home, nine out of 10 and are 4-15 in the month of September. The latest defeat drops the Braves into a tie with the New York Mets for third place in the National League East. They are only 1 1/2 games ahead of the Marlins for fourth place in the division.

It gets worse.

  • The Braves have scored two or fewer runs in 61 out of 156 games this season and fell to 8-53 in those games.
  • They have now been shut out 16 times this year, including six times this month. Nine of the 16 shutouts, second most in the major leagues, have come at Turner Field.
  • They have scored just 40 runs all month, the lowest total in the majors.
  • They have one home run in the past 10 games.

“Yeah, that’s how we feel every day,” Freddie Freeman said. “We always seem to have a couple of guys on, we just never can get the big hit. Just same story, different day. We’ve got six games left. Hopefully we can score some runs so we don’t go really insane in the offseason.”

The Pirates (85-71) won for the 10th time in the past 12 games.

Braves starter Aaron Harang (11-12, 3.60 ERA) cruised through the first five innings as he scattered three hits. He struck out six, including the side in the second inning after allowing a leadoff walk and single.

And then Harang made a mistake. Against the Braves anemic offense, that’s all the opposition needs these days.

Andrew McCutchen crushed a 2-0 pitch into the left centerfield seats for his 24th home run. It gave the Pirates the one-run lead.

“You know what, I’d much rather pitch in games like that,” Harang said. “Those are fun games to pitch in. I told myself, hey, can’t let Russell (Martin) and you can’t let ‘Cutch (McCutchen) freaking beat you. I mean I got 2-0, I had to come back and throw him something close to the plate. I was trying to throw him a back-door sinker. The ball didn’t sink, it just tailed and came back over the middle of the plate. That’s why he was an MVP last year – the guy doesn’t miss mistakes.”

Harang went seven innings, allowing just the four hits and one run.

Meanwhile Pirates starter Francisco Liriano (7-10, 3.32) stymied the Braves through his six innings. He allowed just three hits and four walks while striking out seven. The Braves managed one hit off the Pirates’ bullpen and ended up with 11 strikeouts.

“He was effectively wild,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Liriano. “He would get deep in counts and all of a sudden throw a back-door slider on some of those right-hand hitters and lock them up. So, those guys if you get people on and don’t score they have a tendency to hang around. Next thing you know you get into their bullpen which is maybe one of the best bullpens in baseball, underrated, and you are up against it.”

Each team finished with four hits but the Pirates made one count and that was all they needed.

Notes: Jason Heyward remained out of the Braves lineup for the fourth straight game with a bruised right thumb. The right fielder said the swelling has subsided considerably after he was hit by a pitch. “It doesn’t feel like a balloon anymore,” Heyward said.

Evan Gattis remained out of the lineup as the catcher slowly returns from strep throat and kidney stones. He pinch-hit for Harang in the seventh inning and struck out.

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