The Braves, the top team in the majors, are 23-7 against Pittsburgh dating to 2018 but have been pushed in the teams' first series this year by a Pirates club out of contention and polka-dotted with rookies and inexperience
Pittsburgh won the opener 7-6 on Monday before Atlanta won the next two, needing three runs in the ninth for an 8-6 win Tuesday and blowing an early four-run lead before pulling out a 6-5 win Wednesday
The Pirates, 2-0-2 in their previous four series, can earn another draw with a win Thursday, but Wednesday's loss may haunt them
They erased a four-run deficit, fell behind 5-4, tied it again, then gave up the winning run in the eighth on Austin Riley's sacrifice fly to deep second that sent Michael Harris II home from third. Pittsburgh lost a challenge that Harris left third early
The Pirates then got singles by Andrew McCutchen and Alfonso Rivas in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, but both were stranded
"It still stinks because of the fact you want to win the game," Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. "I think the fact that our guys are playing well against the best team in the National League and we were in a deficit game twice. We tied the game back up (and then) we had the winning run on base, we had the tying run on third when the game ended.
His counterpart, Atlanta manager Brian Snitker, was as elated over his team's deciding run as Shelton was deflated
"It was huge -- just great, instinctual, good read, timing -- a great baseball play by Michael," Snitker said
In the series finale, Atlanta right-hander Bryce Elder (8-3, 3.43 ERA) is scheduled to start opposite Pittsburgh left-hander Bailey Falter (0-7, 4.87)
Falter will be making his second start with the Pirates since they acquired him from Philadelphia at the trade deadline
In his Pittsburgh debut, he gave up one run and six hits in four-plus innings Saturday in a no-decision against Milwaukee
"He did a nice job," Shelton said. "He mixed and matched, executed the fastball to both sides of the plate.
He got pulled after giving up successive singles to Victor Caratini and Brice Turang to open the fifth
"I felt like everything was going pretty well," Falter said. "I've just got to make a couple better pitches, then I feel like I can get those guys out and stay in there a little bit longer.
Falter is 0-1 with a 7.56 ERA in two career starts against the Braves, both in 2022 with Philadelphia
Elder, who has never faced the Pirates, is coming off a loss Saturday when he allowed seven runs (five earned) and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings against the Cubs in Chicago
Five of those runs came in the first, and Atlanta never fully recovered in an 8-6 loss
"I think they're swinging it really good, and I just flat out beat myself," Elder said
That start left Elder with a 7.71 ERA over his past five starts. He also has allowed six homers in those five games after yielding eight homers over his first 17 starts
--Field Level Medi