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Two games in, Braves welcome off day

ATLANTA - The season is just two games old, but the Atlanta Braves definitely needed Tuesday's off day for rest and recouperation.

That Jair Jurrjens - tonight's starting pitcher - was warming up at the end of Monday's night marathon home opener tells you all you need to know about how things have gone for the Braves.

Two games and two gut-wrenching one-run losses - the second in 12 bizarre innings.

"Rest will be much needed," Braves catcher Brian McCann said after the 12-11 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates at Turner Field.

"Definitely a good time for a day off," manager Bobby Cox agreed.

"I need some sleep," added right fielder Jeff Francoeur.

Games like the Braves' first two can keep you up thinking about what went wrong, though.

The Braves staged ninth-inning comebacks to tie Washington on Sunday and the Pirates. But lost both times when relievers gave up a winning home run.

Atlanta went into the season confident in the makeup of its bullpen. But Braves relievers have given up four homers and 11 runs in nine innings of ineffective work.

"We've got a good bullpen," insisted Cox.

If so, it certainly hasn't shown it.

Blaine Boyer, the Braves' ninth pitcher Monday night, gave up a three-run homer to Xavier Nady in the 12th inning and Pirates held on despite another Braves rally in the bottom of the inning.

Nady had also hit one of two homers off Manny Acosta in the eighth inning that seemingly gave the Pirates a comfortable lead after the Braves' Tom Glavine had left with a 4-2 lead through five innings.

Nate McLouth hit the other homer off Acosta, but he was also part of an outfield gaffe that allowed the Braves to force extra innings with a five-run ninth.

McCann's two-out fly ball fell between left fielder Jason Bay and center fielder McLouth to tie the game. It was just the Braves' second hit of the daffy inning.

"Probably the craziest game that I've been a part of," said McCann, who hit a home run in the fourth inning and finished with three RBIs.

"It was a circus," said McLouth when asked to describe the game.

The Pirates, who have had 15 consecutive losing seasons, certainly appreciated the victory, though.

"It was a little bit of a roller-coaster ride," said John Russell, Pittsburgh's first-year manager. "It's baseball. Funny things happen."

After Nady's second homer put the Pirates back up by three runs in the 12th, the Braves rallied again with Francoeur hitting a home run.

But the game finally came to an end before midnight after 4 hours and 28 minutes of unusual moments. The Braves used 22 of their 25 players and the Pirates played 17.

Glavine's return to Turner Field - where he had been booed as a New York Met - was the storyline going into the Braves' home opener, but his five solid innings were just a footnote by the end.

"There were a long of strange things," said Glavine, who was welcomed back with a thunderous ovation. "But there has to be when you have a 12-11 game in 12 innings."

The Braves didn't get back home until almost 4 a.m. on Monday after the loss at Washington and gladly took advantage of Tuesday's day off.

The three-game series with the Pirates resumes tonight, with Jurrjens making his first start for Atlana against left-hander Tom Gorzelanny.

The Braves are not only hoping for a victory, but a more routine game as well.

SideBar: Pirates at Braves

· When: Today-Thursday

· Where: Turner Field

· Radio: 94.9-FM

· Schedule:

· Today, 7:10 p.m. (FSN)

· Thursday, 7:10 p.m. (PTV)