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The Pittsburgh Pirates proved that there’s no place like home as they returned from a grueling road trip-in which they actually finished 4-4, to play the worst team in Major League baseball in the Atlanta Braves. The Pirates welcomed the Braves to PNC Park and beat them 8-5.

OF Matt Joyce, who started in place of Starling Marte who’s on Maternity Leave, went 3-4 and hit a 2-run HR in the 7th inning, which scored OF Gregory Polanco. Joyce is truly looking like a steal for the Pirates, who signed him to a minor-league deal in the offseason. He made the team during spring training and needless to say, he’s proving that he deserved that roster spot. He’s currently hitting .372 and had 3 RBI on the night.

Polanco also had 3 hits and scored 3 runs, 3B David Freese (starting in place of Jung Ho Kang, (Who was off Monday) had 2 hits and 2 runs, while 2B Josh Harrison (1-2) had 2 RBI, including a triple. Even though they left the bases loaded in the bottom of the 8th, and CF Andrew McCutchen had one of his worst games in which he went 0-5 with 2 strikeouts, the Braves were truly no match for the Pirates, despite hitting two last home runs to close the game to a 3-run deficit.

Pirates starter Jon Niese, who came to the team in the Neil Walker to the Mets deal, pitched a good game in which he gave up only 2 runs in 6 innings and struck out 6 to improve to 4-2, tied with Gerrit Cole for the most wins on the team. Closer Mark Melancon shut the Braves down in the 9th to recorded his 12th save.

The Braves did make it interesting as they homered twice & rookie relief pitcher Cory Luebke gave up 3 runs before being replaced late for Jared Hughes, who also struggled before Melancon took over. The Pirates bullpen remains a surprising concern this season after being one of MLB’s best the last 2 years.

For the Braves (9-28) 2B Kelly Johnson went 2-4 and hit his first HR of the season as did OF Jeff Francour, who also had 3 RBI. Braves starter Williams Perez (1-1) was shelled by the Pirates as he gave up 6 runs in 6 innings.

The Pirates are now 20-17 and remain in second place in the National League Central Division.

In other MLB news: 2-time Cy-Young Award winner Tim Lincecum is reportedly close to a deal with the LA Angels. Lincecum had pitched his entire career with the SF Giants and had scheduled a tryout in which many teams (including the Pirates) attended. In other MLB scores, Reds beat the Indians 15-6, the Rays beat the Blue Jays 13-2, and the Red Sox/ Royals game was postponed.

In the NBA: There was only one game, and it was a huge one as the Golden State Warriors welcomed the Oklahoma City Thunder to Oakland for the Western Conference Final, and in a surprising twist, it was the Thunder who came out on top as they pulled of the huge upset by beating the Warriors 108-102. F Kevin Durant and G Michael Westbrook led the way as they scored 26 & 27 points, respectively. The Thunder is certainly the team of the hour as they upset the heavily-favored San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Semifinals. 2016 MVP Steph Curry scored scored 26 points, G Draymond Green had 23 and G Clay Thompson had 25, but it wasn’t enough against the Thunder.

In the NHL: Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals saw the Pittsburgh Penguins tie their best-of-seven series at a game apiece after beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 in overtime. Penguins All-Star C Sidney Crosby first-ever OT game winning goal gave the Penguins their first win in this series and he did so in front of a sold-out crowd at the CONSOL Energy Center. The series now shifts to Tampa Bay later in the week.

Please e-mail Ray at ray@urbanmediatoday.com

Follow him @urbanmediaRay on twitter

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