Friday, May 26, 2017

Kunitz breaks Senators’ hearts in double OT, Penguins win magnificent Game 7

May 26, 2017
Image result for kunitz may 25 2017
Pierre McQuire interviews Chris Kunitz after the Penguins 2Ot game seven victory in the Eastern Conference Finals.
PITTSBURGH—It’s the same every time, the end: Men sitting in place, staring into space, spent. The Ottawa Senators stumbled a little toward the end of the regular season; they were not favoured in the first round, or the second, or the third. Against the Pittsburgh Penguins they fell behind 1-0 in Game 7, and 2-1, and both times they dragged themselves out. They weren’t as good as Pittsburgh. But they could have won.
They didn’t. 5:09 into double overtime, after all the heart-attack near-misses, Pittsburgh’s Chris Kunitz got a pass from Sidney Crosby and the puck was bouncing, just enough. It was rolling and he hammered it and it knuckled past a screen and over Craig Anderson’s shoulder and it all ended right there. The Pittsburgh Penguins, the defending champs, beat Ottawa 3-2 in Game 7, and will play the Nashville Predators for the Stanley Cup. And Ottawa was left staring into the void of summer, and what might have been.
“At the end of the day we lost to a better team,” said Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson, who played 39:33 and assisted on both of the Senators’ goals. “I think we did everything we could in our power, and at the end of the day it could have gone either way, but they did it for a little bit longer than we did, and a little bit better. And that’s the way it’s going to be sometimes. We played the best team in the league. We gave them a good match.”
A surprisingly good one, in the end. He was right: Pittsburgh was better: better high-end players, Karlsson perhaps aside, and a superior ability to control games. And in the end, in double overtime, Sidney Crosby — who started the game afire and ended it the same — missed a pass and knew what he was going to do before the puck hit the end boards, and he wheeled it out and created space before hitting Kunitz, his old linemate, now 37. The puck knuckled. Game over.
“When he drives it deep everyone gets scared,” said Kunitz of Crosby. “Sometimes you get lucky, and put one on the net.”
“I didn’t see the puck at all,” said Anderson, who made 39 saves. “I think Crosby had it in the corner, spun off, and they had a guy going to the net with (Jean-Gabriel) Pageau, and between the two of them I didn’t see Kunitz release it at all, and knucklepuck, end over end. Perfect shot. A little bit lucky too, because it was a knuckler.”
“(Anderson) played great,” said Penguins defenceman Ian Cole. “Quite frankly, it probably would have taken that kind of goal, that end-over-end that looped over him and he didn’t see it.”
Craig Anderson #41 of the Ottawa Senators gives up the game winning goal to Chris Kunitz #14 of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second oevertime in Game Seven to win the Eastern Conference Final during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at PPG PAINTS Arena on May 25, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Ottawa Senators with a score of 3 to 2. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

The Penguins were better. They turned the series in Game 4 and were the superior team in Games 5, and 6, and 7. They won three of those four games only because Anderson stole Game 6, and in the end the Senators hit a ceiling.
“With the group of guys we have and the way that we play, we did everything we could to get as far as we possibly could,” said Karlsson. “And we could have gotten a lucky bounce and we would have liked it. We didn’t, and they won, because over the course of seven games they were better than we were.” Asked how much his fractured heel and injured ankle limited him, Karlsson demurred. “I have no regrets. I think everyone played to their maximum capacity, and it’s no different from me. But yeah, it’s tough times, and you’re never going to be as healthy as you were in November, December.”
It could have ended earlier — Phil Kessel missed the net when in alone in overtime, and had a puck hit a post and danced like a sprite along the top of the bar before tumbling off, and the overhead replay made it look enough like a goal that the crowd booed. But in the end, in a nervy game, the Penguins had much better chances to win: Evgeni Malkin towards the end of regulation, amid a pile of other ones. Yes, the Senators came back when Kunitz scored the first goal, tying it 20 seconds later; yes, they tied it again in the third three minutes after falling behind. It was starting to feel like a form of hockey destiny.
“It was just, I thought it was meant to be,” said Anderson. “I thought it was our time. And you need a little bit of luck on your side, and a lot of things have to go right. We didn’t get a sniff since the first series. We weren’t supposed to be here, weren’t supposed to do this. And inside this room we believed we could anything, and a little bit of puck luck, maybe we’re still standing.”
But they aren’t, and it was the end of a run nobody saw coming. This team overcame Anderson’s wife Nicholle’s cancer, the return of Clarke MacArthur from his two years of concussions, the cancer of former GM Bryan Murray. They had it tough. They got this far, and they could have won, and they didn’t. Dion Phaneuf called it the worst feeling he’s ever had, and he has seen disappointment before. Anderson, asked to describe this team, just said, “Love.”
“Do you have two hours? That’s how long it would take to talk about everybody and everything that these guys have had to go through and endure — a lot of the stuff that is known and some stuff that is not,” said Ottawa coach Guy Boucher. “They gave it their all. They put their soul into it, and it’s really tough. Knowing from the inside how much they deserve to get credit for how wonderful these individuals have been and how resilient and how together this group was. It was a real special, special group.”
“Heartbreaking,” said winger Bobby Ryan. “Because you know the nature of the business side of things. The group will never be the same again. So it is heartbreaking. We weren’t ready for it to end, but they came up one shot better.”
And now it’s the 16th-seeded Nashville Predators, who lost their No. 1 and 2 centres in the conference final, against the defending champs, who lost their No. 1 defenceman halfway through the season. It will be a Cup final between a team that runs on forwards, and a team that runs on defence. The Crosby and Malkin Penguins get a chance to be the first team to repeat since the 1998 Red Wings, and to cement their legacies; Nashville gets a shot at their first Stanley Cup. In a series that wasn’t great, Game 7 was. And Pittsburgh won.

Kunitz the hero for Penguins

By Kevin Gorman
May 26, 2017
Chris Kunitz #14 of the Pittsburgh Penguins scores a goal against Craig Anderson #41 of the Ottawa Senators during the second period in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at PPG PAINTS Arena on May 25, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)

Sidney Crosby saw the way Chris Kunitz was holding his stick, watched him stop atop the left circle and knew his long-time left wing wanted to let one rip.
Crosby slid a pass to Kunitz, whose shot sailed past Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson at 5 minutes, 9 seconds of the second overtime to give the Penguins a 3-2 victory Thursday night and clinch a return to the Stanley Cup Final.
“I was just trying to get it to a soft spot,” Kunitz said of his 27th career playoff goal. “The puck fluttered off my stick. I don't know if it touched him or just kept going right by him. It just found its way into the net, so sometimes you get lucky when you put one on net.”
This was a night where no one knew whether luck, let alone history, would be on the Penguins' side. Twenty-six years ago Thursday night, they won the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history.
That was a good omen.
That the reigning Stanley Cup champions were playing a Game 7 at PPG Paints Arena against the Ottawa Senators for the Eastern Conference championship, not so much.
The Penguins were 9-7 in Game 7s, but only 3-7 on home ice. Then again, the Senators were 0-5 all-time in Game 7s. Something had to give, and the Penguins were hoping it wasn't their chance to repeat.
In the Crosby era, the Penguins have been eliminated on home ice in Game 7s by the Montreal Canadiens (2010), Tampa Bay Lightning (2011) and New York Rangers (2014).
The 37-year-old Kunitz made sure the Senators weren't next.
“You never know if you're going to get another chance to come this far. You never know if you're going to play on this ice again with this team. You have to make sure you make that last as long as you can,” said Kunitz, an unrestricted free agent at season's end.
“It's not a lot of fun thinking about the future when you want to be here playing with your team. Sometimes, it comes down to luck for a goal going against you and your season's over. It's not over for us yet. We've got another challenge in front of us and a chance to win another Cup.”
Kunitz didn't just score the winner, he scored the game's opening goal. The Penguins were 8-1 in Game 7s when scoring first, 1-6 when allowing the first goal. So there was a sense of relief when Kunitz scored his first goal of these playoffs at 9:55 of the second period, his first since putting the finishing touch on Crosby's 1,000th point back on Feb. 16.
Chris Kunitz #14 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates after scoring a goal against Craig Anderson #41 of the Ottawa Senators during the second period in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at PPG PAINTS Arena on May 25, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

“I think he has the mindset, No. 1,” Crosby said. “You've got to understand that you have to go into that game with a different mentality, just a level of desperation and energy that you need to bring. He understands that with the experience and the games he's played in.
“Just all of the little things that he does so well in big games, they show a little bit more because those details are so important to winning. Somebody like him, who understands that, I think that those are just magnified in games like this.”
Twenty seconds later, however, that celebration turned to frustration when the Senators got a tying tally from right wing Mark Stone to make it 1-1.
The Penguins took another lead in the third, after Phil Kessel flopped along the boards to draw an interference penalty on defenseman Dion Phaneuf. Justin Schultz, out since Game 2 with an injury, scored a power-play goal for a 2-1 advantage at 11:44.
Again, the Senators answered. This time, Erik Karlsson's shot from the blue line hit the left post and ricocheted to the right. Murray turned his head toward the echo, just long enough for Ryan Dzingel to push the puck into the net on the opposite side and tie it 2-2 at 14:41.
The Penguins knew they were in for a long night — a very long night, it turns out, as the game lasted 85-plus minutes — and one where past playoff failures and successes mattered not. This was about history in the making, and Game 7 had everything you could have wanted: scoring chances, blocked shots, great saves and near misses, plus two extra periods.
And the best part was the ending.
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at kgorman@tribweb.comor via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

They didn't take the easy route, but challenged Penguins are somehow back in the finals

Craig CustanceESPN Senior Writer 26, 2017
Chris Kunitz #14 of the Pittsburgh Penguins scores a goal against Craig Anderson #41 of the Ottawa Senators during the second period in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at PPG PAINTS Arena on May 25, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH -- It's a play they've made so many times together that Sidney Crosby didn't need to see much to know Chris Kunitz wanted the puck. There was brief eye contact but it was the way Kunitz was holding his stick that signaled he was ready.
Crosby had just retrieved a pass from along the boards and was skating toward Kunitz when he started to raise his stick slightly in anticipation. "He wanted the puck," Crosby said. "He stopped in that area. He wanted to let one rip. I don't know how much he got on it, but he put it in the right spot."
With that pass and shot, the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Ottawa Senators3-2 in double overtime on Thursday and advanced to the Stanley Cup finals for the second consecutive year. A team that has overcome just about every kind of injury during their defense of the Stanley Cup is now four wins away from a repeat, four wins away from doing something no team in the salary-cap era has done.
That it took seven games and double overtime against the resilient Senators fit right in with how this postseason has gone for the Penguins. None of it has come easy.
Not the opponents, with the Columbus Blue Jackets (fourth-best team in the league) and the Washington Capitals (Presidents' Trophy winners) in the first two rounds. Not the breaks, with Penguins dealing with more injuries than just about anyone. None of it.
And yet with every win, they inched closer to a repeat -- and the closer they got, the more their competitive fire burned brighter. This game was the culmination.
"You talk about how difficult it is to get back to the finals two years in a row; when you're seeing all that, you start to see it first hand," Crosby said. "We just continued to find ways and different guys have stepped up and we trust in that and believed in that whoever has come in the lineup has done a great job. That builds confidence."
Crosby is at forefront of it all.
No game captured his iron will more in this series than Game 6 in Ottawa. He didn't score a goal or register a point. His team didn't even win, thanks to an incredible performance from Senators goalie Craig Anderson.
But he was the target of constant abuse from the Senators. His eye was gouged. Senators forward Mike Hoffman squirted him with a water bottle from the bench. Crosby was pinned to the ice in the middle of the play as the Senators got away with liberties that certainly don't support the theory that suggest Crosby gets special treatment as the best player in the game.
After that game, his father, Troy, told his son how proud he was that he didn't retaliate. Crosby simply just kept on pressing. It took another five periods of hockey to get the breakthrough but eventually it happened.
"He took a lot of abuse in Ottawa," Troy Crosby said after his son had helped lead the Penguins to another Stanley Cup finals. "I told him, 'You know what? You played a great game, stayed focused. Keep doing the same thing next game and things will be different.'"
Nailed it.
Chris Kunitz #14 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with Sidney Crosby #87 and Ian Cole #28 after scoring a goal agianst Craig Anderson #41 of the Ottawa Senators in the second overtime with a score of 3 to 2 in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at PPG PAINTS Arena on May 25, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Now, Crosby and the Penguins are in position to win their third Stanley Cup with this core group of players, with only the talented Nashville Predators as the last hurdle. These Stanley Cup finals are an opportunity for the Penguins to stake their claim as the best team of this era. Four more wins and the Penguins pull even with the Chicago Blackhawks and their three rings under the leadership of captain Jonathan Toews.
But the Blackhawks never went back-to-back.
Sidney Crosby is already as driven a competitor as there is in the sport. Does putting the Penguins above other teams in this era drive him even more?
His dad would only say he sees a real hunger in his son. He wasn't tipping off what ignites it most.
"He's motivated. He's hungry," Troy Crosby said. "You can tell he's hungry."
Everyone in the building saw it from the start in Game 7. There was an extra jump in Crosby's game, as there was in a number of Penguins. They seize opportunity as well as any group in the game and they did it once again.
The first emotion that washed over Crosby when Kunitz's shot went in wasn't elation. It was relief. All this effort, doing all the right things with a blind faith that the payoff would eventually come, led to relief.
"It's just one of those games when the stakes are this high, anything can happen, so it's relief," Crosby said.
Relief eventually made way for excitement. The realization set in that the Penguins are playing for another Stanley Cup, their resiliency rewarded with one last opportunity.
"This group of players has a will to win as a group more so than any other group I've been around," said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan. "They understand the opportunity to play this deep and compete for the Stanley Cup doesn't come around every year. And when it does, when a team like ours puts itself in the position like we have, we have to maximize this opportunity."

Chris Kunitz is unlikely hero to give Pittsburgh Penguins chance at Stanley Cup history

, USA TODAY Sports
May 26, 2017

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, Chris Kunitz #14, Sidney Crosby #87 and Evgeni Malkin #71 of the Pittsburgh Penguins pose with the Prince of Wales Trophy after winning Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Final against the Ottawa Senators during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at PPG PAINTS Arena on May 25, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Ottawa Senators with a score of 3 to 2. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

PITTSBURGH — Chris Kunitz is 37. He will be an unrestricted free agent in July. He hadn’t scored a goal in 34 games, counting playoff and regular-season games. He has worn a Pittsburgh Penguins jersey for nine seasons and can’t be sure he will be here for a 10th.

Maybe that made him the perfect person to score the double-overtime goal in the 3-2 Game 7 win against the Ottawa Senators, which gives the Penguins a chance to become the first team in 19 years to win back-to-back championships.

Nothing has ever come easy for hard-working Kunitz during his career, and nothing has come easy for the Penguins in this postseason.

“It's been a hard — it's been a really hard playoffs,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “I give this group of players so much credit. They find ways to win, and we're not perfect on some nights by any stretch. But this group of players has a will to win as a group more so than any other group I've been around.”

The Penguins have endured numerous injuries, periods of inconsistency and two Game 7s. The march of the Penguins hasn’t been as smooth as last year’s journey to the championship. But in some ways, it’s been more impressive. The Penguins continue to anoint new heroes, explore different paths to success.

“It’s a good feeling to compete the way we did,” said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who set up Kunitz for the winning goal.

The Senators were the best defensive team and Craig Anderson was the sharpest goalie the Penguins faced in these playoffs. The Penguins had 42 shots in Game 7 and needed every one of them to get rid of the pesky Senators.

It wasn’t a laser shot that dispatched the Senators.

“The puck fluttered off my stick,” Kunitz said. “I don't know if it touched him or just kept going right by. Looked like there was good screen on the goalie, looked like he fell down. Just found its way into the net. Sometimes you get lucky when you put one in the net.”

Kunitz has scored as many as 35 goals in a season, but he had nine this season.

"He has that knack for big games,” Crosby said. “He does so many little things. Probably a lot of things go unnoticed, but I don’t think his two goals will go unnoticed.”

Kunitz had two goals, six shots, four hits and three blocks, none bigger than the block he made in the second overtime.

“There was a breakdown, and Mark Stone ended up with the puck right in the slot, one of the most dangerous shooters, walking right down the pipe, and (Kunitz) had an unbelievable block,” Pittsburgh defenseman Ian Cole said. “Those are the little things that our team gets excited about.”

The Penguins needed Kunitz and mental toughness to survive this game. They led 1-0 on Kunitz’ first goal only to have the Senators tie it 20 seconds later. They led 2-1 on a Justin Schultz power-play goal only have Ryan Dzingel tie it with 5:19 left in regulation.

“Our defense corps is a resilient bunch,” Sullivan said. “They get knocked down, and they get up, and they get back in the fight. I think that's what I love about them.”

They played one of their best games of the postseason, buying time until Kunitz could produce his heroics.

Kunitz shared the credit. He said he found open ice because the Ottawa defense was drawn to Crosby.

“When he drives it deep, everyone gets scared,” Kunitz said. “Sid's got great vision and put it right there. Just found a way to put it on net and got lucky.

He said it didn’t matter who scored the goal “because we all know we are going to have to pull our weight at some point.”

That could be the Penguins’ motto as they attempt to be the first team in almost two decades to successfully defend a championship.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Pittsburgh defenseman Olli Maatta said.

No one appreciates the opportunity more than Kunitz

“(You) never know if you're going to get another chance to come this far,” Kunitz said. “You never know if you're going to play on this ice again with this team. So you've got to make sure you make that last as long as you can. It's not a lot of fun thinking about the future when you want to be .here and you want to be playing with your teammates. Sometimes it comes down to luck.”

More NHL:

Senators eliminated in double-OT heartbreaker

May 26, 2017
Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates with Erik Karlsson #65 of the Ottawa Senators during the first period in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at PPG PAINTS Arena on May 25, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

PITTSBURGH  - The Ottawa Senators played with heart, but lost a heartbreaker.
The pain was evident by the looks on their faces in a quiet dressing room.
The Senators were unable to win the first Game 7 in franchise history as Chris Kunitz scored his second of the game in double overtime to give the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins a 3-2 win and the Prince of Wales Trophy with a 4-3 series victory in the Eastern Conference final.
Instead of hosting Game 1 of the Cup final Monday night at home, the Senators will head to the Canadian Tire Centre on the weekend to pack their bags after the most successful season in recent history that included playoff wins over the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers before being halted by the Penguins.
“It’s heartbreaking because you know the nature of the business side of things and you know the group will never be the same,” said Ottawa winger Bobby Ryan. “It’s heartbreaking. You realize we’ve got two days together here and then we’re gone for the summer.
“We didn’t want it to end but they came up one shot better.”
This was a great game in every way, shape and form. You really had to wonder if it was ever going to end as both goalies came up big. Kunitz beat Craig Anderson high to send the crowd into hysterics at 5:09 of the second overtime.
“It just found its way to the net. I just got lucky to put one in,” said Kunitz.
While Ryan Dzingel and Mark Stone were able to beat Penguins’ goalie Matt Murray in regulation, only Justin Schultz and Kunitz were able to beat Anderson. Both goalies were brilliant and had to come up with big stops as they two teams pushed hard for the win.
“The guys in here, right from the day I left the team and came back, you couldn’t ask for a better group of teammates,” said Anderson.
The Senators refused to back down. After Schultz gave the Penguins a 2-1 lead with only 8:16 left in the third on the power play, Dzingel tied it up when he picked up a rebound off the post and beat Murray at 14:41 to tie it up. Dzingel did a great job getting his stick on the puck for his second of the playoffs.
Ottawa has had to battle the odds all year. They lost winger Clarke MacArthur for most of the season to a concussion in camp while Anderson took a two-month personal leave to be with his wife Nicholle while she under treatment for a rare form of cancer. Always, they have found a way to persevere.
“It’s really tough,” said coach Guy Boucher. “I think it’s beyond pride to be honest with you. It’s a lot more beyond hockey this year. I wish I could have done something more to help them.”
Through 40 minutes, the Penguins and Senators went toe-to-toe and the score was tied 1-1 as Ottawa was outshot 15-12. The Senators had their second power play of the game late in the period but they couldn’t get anything going. The two teams exchanged goals during a flurry midway through the second.
Only 20 seconds after Kunitz opened the scoring for the Penguins, the Senators answered back when Stone scored his fifth of the playoffs to tie it up. He beat Murray on the glove side from the circle and though many felt the Penguins should challenge for offside replays confirmed that it wasn’t.
Through 20 minutes, the Senators and Penguins played to a scoreless tie. Pittsburgh was ahead on the shot clock 6-5. Neither team had much in the way of great chances but Murray and Anderson made the stops when needed. The Senators were able to look at this as a successful road period because Pittsburgh didn’t dominate.
“At the end of the day we lost to a better team,” said captain Erik Karlsson. “We did everything in our power and it could have gone either way. They did it for a little bit longer than we did and a little bit better. We played the best team in the league and we gave them a good match.
“We’re very disappointed in the loss and getting so close and it’s going to be an experience we’re going to have learn from. We’re going to have to keep improving.”
Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby heaped praise on the Senators especially the play of Anderson who gave his team a chance to win.
“We thought we had some great chances but Anderson was incredible. He’s been like that the past few games,” said Crosby. “(Ottawa) was really difficult to play against. They didn’t give us much.”
Twitter: @sungarrioch

Nova, Frazier lead Pirates to 9-4 win over Braves

The Associated Press
May 25, 2017
Image result for pirates braves may 25 2017
Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Ivan Nova (46) works in the second inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, Thursday, May 25, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

ATLANTA -- Ivan Nova was ticked off.
He really wanted another complete game.
Nova pitched into the ninth inning before tiring, local favorite Adam Frazier hit a three-run homer and the Pittsburgh Pirates pounded Bartolo Colon for a 9-4 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Thursday.
After breezing through the first six innings, facing only three over the minimum, Nova (5-3) came up short in his bid to become the first pitcher in the big leagues this season with three complete games.
He went to the ninth with a 9-2 lead, only to be lifted after giving up three hits.
"It's frustrating," said Nova, who went 8 1/3 innings before Jhan Marinez got the final two outs. "To go out in the ninth inning with that lead, I've got to finish it off. I didn't make the pitches I needed to make and it almost got away from us."
Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle had no complaints. Nova retired 19 hitters on three pitches or fewer, and only went to three balls on one batter -- Kurt Suzuki, who walked in the second.
The only solace for the Braves: It was the first time in Nova's three career appearances against them that they've scored an earned run.
"He knows how to attack," Hurdle said. "There's an art to pitching. He's not throwing. He's pitching."
The Pirates split the four-game series at SunTrust Park after losing the first two contests. This one was easy after Pittsburgh put up five runs in the third inning, capped by Frazier's third homer this season.
It was another big day for the rookie who grew up about an hour away near Athens, Georgia. The previous night, Frazier reached base safely in all six plate appearances, including a homer and four walks .
"That's pretty awesome," he said, beaming.
Colon (2-5) had another tough outing. One day after his 44th birthday, he allowed seven runs and 10 hits in a five-inning stint, raising his ERA to 6.96.
An All-Star last season for the New York Mets, Colon has been charged with five or more runs in half of his 10 starts with the Braves.
"It's on me," he said through a translator. "When you get behind on the count, you have to throw it down the middle. That's what hurts you."
When asked if Colon would stay in the rotation, manager Brian Snitker said, "As of right now, yes."
He added, "I look at the guy's track record. I've got the feeling that a guy who has survived as long as he has will find a way to make the adjustments he needs to do to be successful."
Francisco Cervelli tied his career high with four hits, driving in a pair of runs.Jordy Mercer also had two RBI.
Left fielder Josh Harrison made a diving grab in the third inning to deny Colon his first hit of the season.
Harrison raced toward the line, stretched out for the catch and slid along the grass on his stomach. Rolling to his back, he held up his glove for the umpires to see before flipping the ball back to the infield while still on his back.
Colon smiled on his way back to the dugout. He is hitless in 13 at-bats.
Mired in a slump, Pittsburgh CF Andrew McCutchen didn't start for the second game in a row.
He had been gone hitless in 15 at-bats before a pinch-hit single in Wednesday's game. Manager Clint Hurdle decided to give McCutchen another day off, starting Frazier in center field.
McCutchen is hitting just .203 with six homers and 20 RBI.
Pirates OF Gregory Polanco, who was on the 10-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring, was activated before the game but didn't play. OF Danny Ortiz was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis.
Matt Wisler pitched two hitless innings in his return to the Atlanta bullpen.
Wisler was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett after Josh Collmenter was designated for assignment.
Collmenter was dumped after giving up seven runs and three straight homers in the 10th inning of Wednesday's 12-5 loss.
Pirates: RH Chad Kuhl (1-4, 5.85 ERA) will start the opener of a weekend series against the New York Mets. He is coming off one of his best showings of the season vs. Philadelphia, allowing one hit in five scoreless innings.
Braves: LH Jaime Garcia (1-3, 4.07) makes his ninth start of the season when Atlanta begins a West Coast road trip at San Francisco on Friday night. He is 3-1 with a 2.88 ERA in eight career appearances against the Giants.

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