Braves lose to Pirates, miss first chance to clinch playoff spot

AP photo by Brynn Anderson / Atlanta Braves leadoff hitter Ronald Acuña Jr. gestures towards Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Johan Oviedo in the first inning of Saturday night's game.

ATLANTA — Ronald Acuña Jr. and the Atlanta Braves were agitated before the end of the first inning Saturday.

It proved to be the start of a long night for the home team at Truist Park.

Bryan Reynolds had three hits, including a two-run homer, and the Pittsburgh Pirates won 8-4 to prevent the Braves from becoming the first team this season to clinch a spot in the Major League Baseball playoffs.

The Braves, who lead MLB with 92 wins, are 14 games ahead of the second-place Philadelphia Phillies in their bid for a sixth consecutive National League East Division title. They need just one more victory to clinch no worse than a wild-card berth in the postseason.

After completing their three-game series with Pittsburgh, the Braves will begin a four-game series in Philadelphia on Monday.

Tensions rose and benches cleared in the first inning when Johan Oviedo's fourth pitch backed Acuña off the plate. Acuña glared at Oviedo after the thigh-high pitch. Oviedo returned the glare and then began shouting at Acuña as he walked toward the plate.

"Emotions just peaked," Acuña said through a translator after the game.

Home plate umpire Rob Drake stepped in front of Acuña as players from each bullpen and bench spilled onto the field. No punches were thrown.

"I think those are just things that are part of the game and things that happen in the game stay in the game," Acuña said.

Oviedo walked Acuña on the next pitch, and Acuña again stared at the pitcher as he walked to first base. Acuña was caught stealing on Oviedo's first pitch to Ozzie Albies.

Braves manager Brian Snitker, ejected later in the game, said he "absolutely" believed Acuña was justified in being upset.

"I would be, too, if I was him," Snitker said. "He holds his composure pretty well, and that's the first time I've seen him react like that. I don't blame him one bit. I don't blame him for doing that."

After giving up back-to-back run-scoring singles to Acuña and Albies in the fourth, Oviedo hit Austin Riley with a pitch on his left arm. Snitker was ejected by first base umpire Bill Miller after coming out of the dugout to argue.

Snitker said no warnings had been issued after the inside pitch to Acuña.

"We just had a difference of opinion about things," Snitker said of his argument with Miller.

As Snitker jawed with Miller, Pirates manager Derek Shelton already had made a move to remove Oviedo, who allowed three runs on nine hits in 3 2/3 innings, and bring in left-hander Ryan Borucki (2-0).

The Pirates took the lead by scoring three runs in the fifth. Endy Rodriguez delivered an RBI single off Michael Tonkin for a 4-3 lead. Jack Suwinski and Ji Hwan Bae also had run-scoring singles in the inning. Bae scored from first on Ke'Bryan Hayes' double in the third.

Reynolds homered off Dylan Dodd (2-2) in the third. Liover Peguero added to the lead with a home run off Kirby Yates in the ninth.

Miguel Andujar had three hits for Pittsburgh.

Atlanta's Matt Olson hit his MLB-leading 48th homer of the season off Carmen Mlodzinski in the seventh, his fifth in the last six games.

Acuña reached base four times, on two singles and two walks.

Dodd, making his sixth start of the season with Atlanta, allowed four runs in four-plus innings. Snitker said the work by Dodd, combined with right-hander Darius Vines' three innings in relief, protected the bullpen for Sunday's game and a doubleheader at Philadelphia on Monday.

"You would like to see a better result, but under the circumstance our bullpen is in better shape," Snitker said.

Braves third baseman Austin Riley had one hit, a first-inning single, in his return after missing two games due to illness.

Dodd was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett and right-hander Ben Heller was optioned to the Stripers.

In a pregame ceremony, the Braves retired the No. 25 of 10-time Gold Glove center fielder Andruw Jones.

Right-hander Alan Winans (1-1, 5.17 ERA in three games) will be recalled to start Sunday's series finale for Atlanta. Right-hander Luis Ortiz (4-4, 4.90) will start for the Pirates.