Gamel hits 2 HRs, drives in 6 runs; Pirates rip Braves 11-1
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Ben Gamel and Chase De Jong have spent five-plus years bouncing around the major leagues in search of a home.
Maybe they’ll stick in Pittsburgh. Maybe they won’t. They’ve been around long enough to know it’s unwise to take anything for granted. Better to live in the moment, particularly the ones the journeymen enjoyed during an 11-1 victory over Atlanta on Monday.
Gamel hit two homers and drove in six runs while De Jong (1-3) navigated a rocky first inning to pick up his first victory in nearly three years. Not bad for a couple of guys who have played for a combined nine teams since 2016.
“My boy was in the stands, my wife was in the stands,” Gamel said. “It was a really special night.”
De Jong and Gamel were teammates in Seattle in 2017. They’ve moved around plenty before reuniting on a rebuilding team in which they are likely merely placeholders. They’ve learned that it’s simply part of the business, which made their respective performances a little bit sweeter.
“Guys in our position that have been with multiple teams, to be that grinder guy that bounces around, for (Gamel) to have a night like that is great,” De Jong said of Gamel.
Gamel took Max Fried (5-5) over the fence in center field for a two-run home run in the fourth, doubled home Bryan Reynolds in the sixth and added a three-run shot in the seventh as the Pirates won their second straight following a six-game losing streak.
Pittsburgh’s 11 runs tied a season-high and were one more than the club managed (10) while going 1-6 last week.
“I don’t think we missed our pitches tonight,” Gamel said. “I think the scoreboard reflects that.”
De Jong (1-3) survived a 36-pitch first inning to pick up his second major league win. De Jong struck out four and walked three to notch his first win since beating the Chicago White Sox on Sept. 28, 2018, while playing for Minnesota.
Having an offense that has struggled mightily in recent weeks helped. Each of the top six hitters in the lineup had at least two hits, with Gamel finishing with three. The well-traveled 29-year-old is hitting .312 (29 for 93) in his last 27 starts.
FRIED GETS FRIED
A day after driving in the winning run as a pinch-hitter in a 10-inning victory over Miami, Fried came back down to earth with his worst start since April. The Pirates touched the left-hander for six runs in five-plus innings as Atlanta missed a chance to get back to .500 for the first time since June 8.
Atlanta manager Brian Snitker downplayed the notion the Braves were flat following their big rally against Miami on Sunday that was capped by Fried’s unlikely walk-off.
“I don’t think there’s any effect on that, what happened yesterday,” Snitker said. “If we came out and had gotten something going offensively, would have been a totally different story. (We) just weren’t able to do that.”
Ronald Acuña Jr. and Freddie Freeman had two hits apiece for Atlanta. The rest of the Braves managed just two hits against De Jong and four relievers.
Atlanta appeared ready to chase De Jong early. Acuña singled leading off the game and raced home when Freeman followed with a double to right that Phil Evans bobbled after chasing down. A walk and a hit batter eventually loaded the bases, but De Jong survived further damage when Orlando Arcia lined out to shortstop.
John Nogowski went 2 of 4 in his first start at first base after being acquired from St. Louis for cash considerations on Saturday. The 28-year-old Nogowski is hoping to kick start his career after hitting just 2 for 22 (.091) in 20 games with the Cardinals. Pittsburgh is in need of serious help at first with Colin Moran and Erik Gonzalez both on the 10-day injured list.
The announced crowd of 11,600 helped out singer Liz Valli when her microphone cut out about halfway through “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The crowd picked up where Valli left off, chiming in while Valli’s voice could be faintly heard while she stood near home plate.
Pirates: LHP Steven Brault (left lat strain) is expected to make a rehab start in Florida at some point this week. Brault has been sidelined all season after being injured in mid-March. ... Shelton said Evans went into concussion protocol after hitting his head late in the game.
Braves: Ian Anderson (5-4, 3.35 ERA) will try to pick up his second win since Memorial Day when the teams meet on Tuesday.
Pirates: Chad Kuhl (2-5, 5.16) has won two of his last three starts after dropping his first four decisions.
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