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Upton brothers' miscommunication proves costly as Braves fall to Pirates

Mark Townsend
Big League Stew

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Every now and then, even the pros fail to communicate effectively on the field, leading to awkward plays and bad results for their respective teams. Such was the case in the Atlanta Braves' outfield on Wednesday night in Pittsburgh, only this miscommunication is more notable than most for two big reasons.

The first: It ended up costing Atlanta an important game in the standings and snapped its five-game winning streak.

The other: It involved and nearly cost the Braves a pair of brothers, Justin and B.J. Upton.

It happened in the ninth inning after Jody Mercer singled and Andrew McCutchen popped out to start the frame. Starling Marte stepped in next and hit what seemed to be a routine fly ball to left-center field. The ball hung up in the air long enough that either defender could have caught it, even though both had to run a long distance to get there. 

It was just a matter of one taking charge, and though it appears B.J. Upton attempted to do just that, at least based on his hand gestures, Justin didn't get the message. He continued charging, forcing B.J. to peel off at the very last moment to avoid a potentially dangerous collision, and the baseball ended up bouncing off Justin's glove, allowing Mercer and Marte to take second and third.

"B.J. is playing the gap and I'm playing straight up and there was a huge gap," Justin Upton told reporters. "We covered some ground. We just couldn't get there. ... I saw [B.J.]. There was nothing we could do. That ball was literally right between where both of us could get to it. It was just perfect placement."

Manager Fredi Gonzalez saw it a little differently, but wasn't overly critical of his two players.

''We make that play 99 1/2 out of 100 times,'' Gonzalez said about the error.

Following the play, the Uptons awkwardly crossed paths on their way back to their positions. It didn't look like much was said, but the facial expressions told of their frustration. It was definitely playable, despite what Justin Upton's comments suggested.  

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One batter later, that frustration would grow when Gaby Sanchez hit a sacrifice fly to deep center field that B.J. Upton could only catch while shaking his head. Mercer raced to the plate and scored easily, giving Pittsburgh a desperately needed 3-2 win. The Pirates had lost seven straight coming in and fallen to seven games behind Milwaukee in the NL Central, but did gain a game back on Wednesday. 

Unfortunately for Atlanta, they failed to gain a single game in the NL East standings during their five-game winning streak. The Washington Nationals are up to nine straight wins, pushing their division lead to seven full games. 

That's what we call no margin for error. Unfortunately for the Uptons, they combined for a big one on Wednesday. 

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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