Pirates' Andrew McCutchen stands in center field in the first inning against the Braves at PNC Park Tuesday night after returning from the disabled list.
Braves' Andrelton Simmons steals second base against Pirates' Neil Walker in the second inning at PNC Park.
Pirates' Francisco Liriano pitches against the Braves at PNC Park.
Braves' Justin Upton breaks his bat on a two-run single against the Pirates in the fifth inning at PNC Park.
By Paul Zeise / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Pirates often listen to music in the clubhouse before and after games, and while it is not clear if Tom Petty's "Free Fallin' " is on the playlist, this much has become clear -- it should be.
Given the way this team has played recently, perhaps it should replace "Pirates Generation" as the unofficial anthem.
The latest evidence of a team losing its way came Tuesday night when the Atlanta Braves pounded Francisco Liriano and the Pirates, 11-3, before a mostly unhappy crowd of 27,033 at PNC Park.
"We have had opportunities," Hurdle said. "In these games, there are tipping points, and you look for one good at-bat, a big swing with a couple men on base that can change the direction of the game, and we haven't been able to get that, really, at times for the last week.
"Every game, you break down, 'Did you meet the demands of the game?' And you look at that; we haven't played a complete game, we haven't met the demands of the game or finished games.
"So this is all about the beauty of the challenge of a 162-game season, and it is up to us to get it turned around."
Atlanta had 14 hits and took advantage of Liriano early and often and made quick work of the Pirates, who were never in the game after the second inning.
It was the Pirates' seventh loss in a row, which marks their longest losing streak since 2012 (Sept. 7-14) when they also lost seven in a row.
The loss dropped the Pirates (64-62) to two games behind the Braves (66-60) in the wild-card race and seven behind first-place Milwaukee in the National League Central. They must win tonight in order to avoid being swept for the second series in a row.
The Pirates were swept by the Washington Nationals over the weekend and also lost two in a row in Detroit Wednesday and Thursday. As a result, they have fallen from the doorstep of first place to scrambling to stay in the wild-card race in seven days. Atlanta has won five games in a row.
Liriano, who recently had appeared to be rounding into the form that made him the ace of the 2013 staff, lasted four innings. He gave up nine runs, 10 hits and three walks while his ERA ballooned to 4.16.
"I just missed my spot a lot, and it was one of those nights where it felt like anything I throw they were going to hit," Liriano said. "They have been pretty hot the last few games, it was just one of those nights, so I need to put it behind me and move forward. Tomorrow is another day."
Hurdle echoed Liriano's sentiments and said it just wasn't his night.
"I think we saw early that some complications came when he pitched out of the stretch," Hurdle said. "Throughout the outing, he wasn't sharp, there was a lot of balls thigh high and the command was challenging for him. The overall command, he just couldn't put the ball where he wanted to."
Liriano was victimized by a bad play that wasn't ruled an error when second baseman Neil Walker failed to get a tag down on Andrelton Simmons on what should have been a strikeout-throwout double play in the second. Instead, Simmons slid into second under Walker's tag, and Braves pitcher Aaron Harang, an .068 hitter at game time, hit an RBI single for Atlanta's first run. The wheels came off for Liriano in the third.
Phil Gosselin led off with a single and Freddie Freeman singled before Justin Upton blasted a three-run homer to make it 4-0.
B.J. Upton, who led off the top of the fourth with a double, eventually scored on a Jason Heyward single to make it 5-0. The rout was on.
Liriano (3-10) started the fifth but the first three batters reached base. Then, B.J. Upton singled to deep right to give the Braves a 6-1 lead and Liriano was replaced by Brandon Cumpton, who inherited a bases-loaded, nobody-out situation. He gave up two-run singles to Heyward and Justin Upton, and the game became a laugher as the Braves led, 10-1.
The loss spoiled the return of center fielder Andrew McCutchen (rib) from the 15-day disabled list and shortstop Jordy Mercer, who missed the previous four games with right forearm tightness.
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