KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Freddie Freeman was already fitting in nicely in the cleanup spot for Atlanta. Now, the Braves also have leadoff batter Andrelton Simmons back and he’s hitting well, too.
Simmons, who just returned from the World Baseball Classic, and Freeman each hit two home runs to help the Braves beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 18-9 Wednesday.
“It’s the way you want to start back,” said the young shortstop, who also had a double. “I hope I didn’t waste all my home runs.”
The Braves finished with 21 hits and have totaled 35 runs in their past two games.
“That’s a quality lineup over there,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
The Braves scored six first-inning runs en route to a 17-10 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday and pickup up right where they had left off with five first-inning runs against the Pirates after an off day Tuesday.
Kyle McPherson, competing for a spot in the Pittsburgh rotation, was the victim this time. He worked 4 2/3 innings and gave up 10 hits and nine runs (eight earned).
“He was trying to follow a game plan and that was problematic,” Hurdle said. “Command was up early. The execution part of the arsenal was really inconsistent. That’s what went sideways on him.”
Braves starter Mike Minor drove in the final first-inning run with a double, but he had his own struggles on the mound. The left-hander gave up 10 hits and five runs in four innings, walking three and striking out five.
Andrew McCutchen hit a homer off Minor in the third inning and was 2 for 4 with two RBIs. The Pirates had 16 hits, but 14 were singles.
Wandy Rodriguez, who returned to Pirates camp Monday from the WBC, is scheduled to throw 85-90 pitches in a minor league game in Bradenton today. He was 1-0 with a 0.96 ERA for the champion Dominican Republic.
Pirates trade for McDonald: The Arizona Diamondbacks traded shortstop John McDonald to Pittsburgh Wednesday for a player to be named or cash, giving the Pirates some much-needed infield depth.
The trade came two days after Pirates backup shortstop Chase d’Arnaud, injured in a rundown drill earlier, had surgery for a torn ligament in his left thumb. He is expected to be sidelined six to eight weeks.
The 38-year-old McDonald hit .249 in six homers and 22 RBIs in 70 games for Arizona last season and gives the Pirates an experienced reserve for regular shortstop Clint Barmes.
McDonald, who can also play second base and third base, made only one error in 210 chances last season.
“He’s a professional player. A lot of experience. Above average defender. He’s got infield presence. Clubhouse presence. He’s just a seasoned vet,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
McDonald has spent parts of 14 seasons in the majors with Cleveland, Detroit, Toronto and Arizona. He is a .237 career hitter.
We like the defense and we like the player,” Huntington said.