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PIT@ATL: McCutchen drops Hudson's fly ball in center

ATLANTA -- The road trip turned into a road trap for Kevin Correia -- and it was sprung by his own defense.

The Pirates were effectively being handled anyway on Sunday by Tim Hudson, whose five tenacious innings led them into the teeth of the tough Atlanta bullpen, so it may have only hurried the inevitable, which became a 4-3 loss to the Braves in front of 30,419 fans at Turner Field.

For the 21st consecutive game, the Bucs were held to under six runs, the longest such season-opening stretch in the club's 131-year history. The Major League record of 31 games was set by the 1972 Brewers.

Yet Correia was sailing along behind a 2-0 lead until center fielder Andrew McCutchen, appearing to take his eyes off Hudson's lazy fly with one out in the third, dropped it for a two-base error, setting into motion a tailspin from which Correia couldn't recover.

"Just missed it. Bounced off the foam in the glove," McCutchen, said after the game. "You just got to shake your head. I don't know what happened. But I hate for that to happen."

After an ensuing walk, Pedro Alvarez muffed Martin Prado's grounder to third. Freddie Freeman followed with the "three-out" sacrifice fly to cash in a run as unearned as they come.

"Kevin was grinding out there, and we didn't defend very well that one inning," said manager Clint Hurdle. "Two errors in one inning complicate matters. Give a team five outs, you're lucky to get out with one run."

"Name of the game: Make an error, they score a run," McCutchen said. "Two errors, and they got some runs they shouldn't have had. We had a couple of opportunities to get Correia out of that inning, and weren't able.

"He doesn't deserve that loss. I wish I could have the loss instead. But it doesn't go that way."

For his part, Correia shook off the errors, pointing out that the inning began with a two-run lead and ended with him still ahead.

"I don't think much harm was done by it," Correia said of McCutchen's drop.

Perhaps not directly, but there was also a trickle-down effect.

"It probably stacked another 18-20 pitches on his load," Hurdle said, and the extra load would definitely come into play.

The Braves caught the Bucs at 2 in the fourth, when No. 8 hitter Tyler Pastornicky's two-out double scored Dan Uggla from second base. Letting Pastornicky swing with the pitcher on deck wasn't surprising, given the views expressed on just such situations by Hurdle prior to the game.

"Rather than just put a guy on," Hurdle had said, "I love to give a guy with experience some liberty, to take the monkey off his back. If he makes the pitches he wants and walks the guy, OK. But it gives him a safety net."

Correia has that experience, 10 years' worth. The first six pitches to Pastornicky may have been the wanted ones. But the rookie fouled off one two-strike pitch, then ripped a full-count slider up the left-center alley for the equalizer.

"I wasn't just going to pass on him. For me, he hasn't yet earned that respect," Hurdle said of Pastornicky. "We felt confident we could get him out, or at least work on his weakness, and if he doesn't swing, fine -- then he goes to first. We called a slider, and it was poorly executed. Stayed in the middle of the plate."

"That was just a bad pitch. Any pitch in that location would've been hit hard," Correia said. "I'm a guy who's going to challenge guys. I'm not going to pitch around a whole lot of guys. It was just a mistake pitch."

The fight put up by Pastornicky also forced Correia to make 26 pitches that inning. That, and the 85 degrees of humid heat, seemed to sap him. Twenty-four more pitches couldn't get him out of the fifth, but it did bring in the Braves' go-ahead run, on Uggla's bases-loaded walk, the third issued in the inning by Correia.

"I'm up there trying to hack," Uggla said. "I'd rather drive in two runs than one. But you've got to get what you can."

That was Correia's exit sign, leaving a start without a strikeout for the first time since Aug. 5, 2010, when he otherwise was effective in pitching the first 5 2/3 innings of San Diego's 5-0 win over the Dodgers. His road record as a Pirates starter dipped to 11-4.

Prado's solo homer in the seventh off Brad Lincoln gave Atlanta relievers a welcome insurance run. Four of them picked up after Hudson's five innings, with Craig Kimbrel finishing up for his eighth save. Jose Tabata doubled off Kimbrel and eventually scored on his wild pitch to make it a one-run game.

Hudson, making his first start of the season after completing his rehab from back surgery, escaped a first-inning jam by getting Neil Walker to ground into the third out with two on. The Bucs didn't let him get away the next inning. Tabata sliced a single with the sacks loaded and two outs between Freeman at first and the foul line, driving in two for a 2-0 lead.

Ultimately, all it meant was that the Pirates would take only their third loss in the dozen games in which they've scored more than one run.

So that was strange, and those things seem to come in threes. Add to it the McCutchen drop and the five total walks by Correia.

"I don't expect [McCutchen] to do that very often. And I'm not a guy to go out there and walk five guys a game," Correia said. "You're not going to walk five guys in a game and get a win very often."

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