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Baseball

    Former Braves general manager John Coppolella has been banned for life by Major League Baseball as part of discipline handed down by the league Tuesday for major infractions committed in the international free-agent market. In addition, special assistant Gordon Blakeley has been suspended for one year. In handing down the punishment, the league announced that Braves will forfeit rights to 13 international prospects, will be prohibited from signing any international player for more than $10,000 during the 2019-20 signing period and are restricted from signing players in the next two signing periods for contracts with bonuses greater than $300,000. The highest-profile signee that the Braves will lose is infielder Kevin Maitan. Here is the complete statement from MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred: “My office has completed a thorough investigation into violations of Major League Rules by the Atlanta Braves. The Braves cooperated throughout the investigation, which was conducted by MLB’s Department of Investigations. The senior Baseball Operations officials responsible for the misconduct are no longer employed by the Braves. I am confident that Terry McGuirk, John Schuerholz, Alex Anthopoulos and their staffs have and will put in place procedures to ensure that this type of conduct never occurs again and which will allow the Club to emerge from this difficult period as the strong and respected franchise that it has always been. “The investigation established that the Braves circumvented international signing rules from 2015 through 2017. During the 2015-16 international signing period, the Braves signed five players subject to the Club’s signing bonus pool to contracts containing signing bonuses lower than the bonuses the Club had agreed to provide the players. The Club provided the additional bonus money to those players by inflating the signing bonus to another player who was exempt from their signing pool because he qualified as a ‘foreign professional’ under MLB rules. Consistent with the rules, the Braves could have signed all of the 2015-16 players for the full, actual signing bonus amounts. Had the Club signed the five players to contracts containing their actual bonuses, however, the Braves would have exceeded their signing bonus pool by more than five percent and would have been, under MLB rules, restricted from signing any players during the next two signing periods for contracts with bonuses greater than $300,000. “As a result of the 2015-16 circumvention, the Braves were able to sign nine high-value players during the 2016-17 signing period who would have been unavailable to them had the Club accurately accounted for its signings during the 2015-16 signing period. These players were Juan Contreras, Yefri del Rosario, Abrahan Gutierrez, Kevin Maitan, Juan Carlos Negret, Yenci Peña, Yunior Severino, Livan Soto and Guillermo Zuniga. In addition, the Braves entered into additional ‘package’ agreements in 2016 and 2017 in which they signed Brandol Mezquita, Angel Rojas and Antonio Sucre for reduced amounts, and provided additional money to those players’ agents by signing other players affiliated with their agents to contracts with inflated bonuses. In order to remedy these violations, I am releasing these players from their contracts with the Braves and declaring them free agents eligible to sign with any other Club. The procedures governing the players’ release and the signing process will be communicated to MLB Clubs under separate cover.  “The investigation also determined that the Braves: (i) agreed to sign six players to inflated signing bonuses pursuant to an agreement with prospect Robert Puason’s agent in exchange for a commitment that Puason would sign with the Club in the 2019-20 signing period; and (ii) offered prospect Ji-Hwan Bae extra-contractual compensation. In order to remedy these violations, I am prohibiting the Club from signing Robert Puason when he becomes eligible to sign, and disapproving the contract between Bae and the Braves, which has not yet become effective. “While the remedies discussed above will deprive the Braves of the benefits of their circumvention, I believe that additional sanctions are warranted to penalize the Club for the violations committed by its employees. Accordingly, the Braves will be prohibited from signing any international player for more than $10,000 during the 2019-20 signing period, which is the first signing period in which the Braves are not subject to any signing restrictions under our rules; and the Braves’ international signing bonus pool for the 2020-21 signing period will be reduced by 50 percent. “The investigation also determined that the Braves offered impermissible benefits, which were never provided, to a player they selected in the First-Year Player Draft in an attempt to convince him to sign for a lower bonus. As a penalty for the Club’s attempted circumvention involving a draft selection, the Braves will forfeit their third-round selection in the 2018 First-Year Player Draft. “With respect to individual discipline, former Braves General Manager John Coppolella will be placed on the permanently ineligible list, effective immediately. Former Braves Special Assistant Gordon Blakeley will be suspended for a period of one year, effective immediately, and may not perform services for any MLB Club during his suspension. I intend to discipline other Braves’ International Baseball Operations employees who participated in the misconduct after the completion of our internal procedures. My staff will speak to the Players Association and officials in the Dominican Republic regarding appropriate consequences for the representatives of the players who intentionally participated in schemes to circumvent our rules, none of whom are certified by the Players Association.” Check myAJC.com for a full report on the Braves and the punishment.
  • LOS ANGELES (AP) — Joc Pederson sliced a drive over the left-field wall, pounded his chest and danced around the bases , taking as many twists and turns as this World Series itself. Of course, the Los Angeles Dodgers forced the Houston Astros to Game 7. Chris Taylor hit a tying double off Justin Verlander during a two-run rally in the sixth inning , Corey Seager followed with a go-ahead sacrifice fly and the Dodgers beat the Astros 3-1 on Tuesday night to push this dramatic Fall Classic to the ultimate game. Pederson homered in the seventh against Joe Musgrove, connecting off the right-hander for the second time in three games and making it a record 24 long balls that have been hit in this Series. Pederson pranced all the way to the plate, pointing at the Dodgers' dugout and rubbing his thumbs and index fingers together to indicate what a money shot it was. 'You kind of black out in a situation like that. So I'm going to have to re-watch it to see what I did,' Pederson said. It was the third home run of the World Series for Pederson, demoted to the minors from mid-August until early September, then left off the NL Division Series roster. He had hit just one previous opposite-field homer in the big leagues this season, and teammates offered to pay him to go the other way. 'People are trying to get me encouraged to using the whole field,' he said. 'I'm not very good at it.' Yu Darvish starts Wednesday for the Dodgers, trying to win their first title since 1988, and Los Angeles ace Clayton Kershaw will be ready in the bullpen after getting knocked out in the fifth inning of Game 5. 'I can give you 27 innings,' Kershaw said. 'I'll be ready to go, whatever they need.' Lance McCullers Jr. gets the ball for the Astros in the first World Series Game 7 ever at Dodger Stadium and the first since 1931 between teams that won 100 games during the regular season. Darvish was chased in the second inning of Game 2, when McCullers pitched Houston to a 5-3 victory. 'You've got two teams with a bunch of dogs in the clubhouse. No one is afraid,' McCullers said. Two nights after a 13-12, 10-inning slugfest under the roof at Minute Maid Park, pitching dominated. George Springer's third-inning home run against starter Rich Hill had given a 1-0 lead to Verlander and the Astros, trying for the first championship in their 56-season history. On Halloween night, a title for a team with orange in its colors seemed appropriate. But it served only to set up the 10th blown lead of the Series, the fifth by Houston, as Verlander fell to 9-1 with the Astros. Dodgers relievers combined for 4 1/3 scoreless innings. Brandon Morrow retired Alex Bregman on a grounder to strand the bases loaded in the fifth,winner Tony Watson got Marwin Gonzalez to line out to leaping second baseman Chase Utley with two on and two outs in the sixth , and Kenta Maeda escaped two-on trouble in the seventh when third baseman Justin Turner gloved Jose Altuve's grounder and made a short-hop throw that first baseman Cody Bellinger scooped just in time. 'The pick is big,' Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. After wasting a ninth-inning lead in Game 2 and losing Game 5, Kenley Jansen retired six straight batters on 19 pitches for the save and ended it by striking out 40-year-old pinch-hitter Carlos Beltran. This will be the third World Series Game 7 in four years. The home team had won nine straight since 1979 before San Francisco triumphed at Kansas City in 2014 and the Chicago Cubs captured their first title since 1908 at Cleveland last year. Ten of the last 12 teams that won Game 6 to force a seventh game also won the title, but the Dodgers lost the previous six World Series in which they trailed 3-2. They have won just one of their six championships at home, in 1963. A heat wave over and the skies overcast, the temperature dropped to 67 degrees at game time from 103 for last week's opener, and there was a slight drizzle in the middle innings. Los Angelenos with a laid-back reputation were on their feet for two-strike counts against Astros batters, a wave in Pantone 294 — also known as Dodger blue. 'We feed off the crowd, for sure,' Taylor said. 'We feel we have a huge home-field advantage.' Yuli Gurriel, who made a racist gesture toward Darvish in Game 3, was booed loudly during introductions and each time he batted, and Hill stepped off the rubber to allow the crowd extra time to jeer. Verlander has 11 postseason wins but dropped to 0-4 in the Series with Detroit and Houston, which acquired him from the Tigers on Aug. 31 to win on nights like this. He allowed just one baserunner before Austin Barnes singled leading off the sixth. Verlander bounced a pitch that hit Utley on the front of his right foot, and Taylor sent a 97 mph fastball down the right-field line as Barnes came home. Seager followed with a sacrifice fly to the warning track, a ball that likely would have landed in the pavilion in last week's hot air. Verlander prevented more damag e when Turner fouled out and the right-hander fanned Bellinger, who struck out four times for the second time in the Series. Springer homered for the third straight game and fourth time in the Series, one shy of the record set by Reggie Jackson in 1977 and matched by Utley in 2009. Brian McCann singled leading off the fifth and Gonzalez doubled past Turner and down the left-field line. Hill struck out Josh Reddick and Verlander, and Springer was intentionally walked to load the bases. Morrow relieved as the crowd booed manager Dave Roberts' decision, and Hill slapped at four cups of liquid in the dugout, sending them spraying against the wall 'With Verlander on the mound, that was going to be the game,' Roberts said. Appearing in his sixth straight Series game, Morrow got Bregman to ground to shortstop on his second pitch. Watson walked Reddick leading off the seventh, Evan Gattis pinch hit for Verlander and Maeda relieved. Gattis bounced to shortstop, just beating Utley's throw from second to avoid a double play. Springer reached on an infield single, and Bregman's fly to deep center allowed pinch-runner Derek Fisher to tag up and advance to third, bringing up Altuve. Walking down the dugout steps after his groundout, Altuve slammed his helmet. Afterward, attention quickly turned to Wednesday. 'I think it seems fitting,' Roberts said. 'These two teams mirror one another.' Pederson sat in the interview room with his older brother, Champ , who has Down Syndrome. 'I have a feeling that everything is possible,' Champ said. 'I'm not going to say they have it, but I'm just going to say they will find a way.' ___ More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball
  • LOS ANGELES (AP) — No sweat, Clayton Kershaw. Changing jerseys to beat the 103-degree heat, the Dodgers ace with a checkered playoff history delivered a signature performance, pitching Los Angeles past the Houston Astros 3-1 Tuesday night in the World Series opener. Boosted by Justin Turner's tiebreaking, two-run homer in the sixth inning off Dallas Keuchel, Kershaw was in complete control against the highest-scoring team in the majors this season. 'Definitely feels good to say it was the World Series, and it feels good to say we're 1-0,' Kershaw said. The left-hander had waited his whole career for this moment. And once he took the mound in his Series debut, he lived up every bit to the legacy of Sandy Koufax, Orel Hershiser and the greatest of Dodgers hurlers. The three-time Cy Young Award winner struck out 11 , gave up just three hits and walked none over seven innings, featuring a sharp breaking ball that often left Houston batters taking awkward swings. His lone blemish was a home run by Alex Bregman in the fourth that made it 1-all. No matter, with Koufax in the house, Kershaw did his pal proud. 'He was as good as advertised,' Keuchel said. A sweltering, pulsating crowd at Dodger Stadium dotted with Hollywood A-listers was filled with Kershaw jerseys, and he drew loud cheers all evening. Kershaw got one more ovation when he walked through a corridor to a postgame interview. There, fans applauded a final time. 'I felt good. It's a tough lineup over there,' Kershaw said. 'The way Keuchel was throwing it was up and down a lot, which was good. It got us into a rhythm a little bit. I think for me personally, it helped out a lot.' Brandon Morrow worked a perfect eighth and Kenley Jansen breezed through the Astros in the ninth for a save in a combined three-hitter. The Dodgers' dominant relievers have tossed 25 straight scoreless innings this postseason. With both aces throwing well, the opener zipped by in 2 hours, 28 minutes — fastest in the World Series since Game 4 in 1992 between Toronto and Atlanta. Jimmy Key and the Blue Jays won that one 2-1 in 2:21. It certainly was unusual for this postseason, when nine-inning games had been averaging 3 hours, 32 minutes — up 18 minutes from two years ago. Chris Taylor gave the Dodgers an immediate jolt in their first Series game since 1988 when he hit a no-doubt home run on Keuchel's very first pitch. Taylor was co-MVP of the NL Championship Series with Turner, and they both kept swinging away against the Astros. 'Just getting that momentum early is huge,' Kershaw said. 'And let the crowd kind of feed off that. It was definitely as good a start as we could have hoped for.' The loss left the Astros still without a single World Series win in their 56-season history. In their only other Series appearance, they were swept by the White Sox in 2005. Game 2 is Wednesday evening, with AL Championship Series MVP Justin Verlander starting against Dodgers lefty Rich Hill. Kershaw has almost every imaginable individual accolade on his resume — five ERA titles, an MVP trophy, a no-hitter and seven All-Star selections — but also was dogged by a shaky October past. He began this outing in the twilight with a 6-7 career playoff record and an unsightly 4.40 ERA. He improved to 3-0 in four starts this postseason. 'I don't know if you can decipher between a postseason start and a World Series start. The adrenaline, I feel like every game is so much more magnified,' Kershaw said. A Series opener that served as a showcase for several of the game's best young hitters — Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Cody Bellinger and more — instead was dominated by Kershaw. 'Couldn't be happier for him,' Turner said. Facing a team that had the fewest strikeouts in the majors this year, Kershaw fanned more Houston hitters than any starter this season. And he helped the Dodgers, who led the majors with 104 wins and a $240 million payroll, improve to 8-1 this postseason. 'Tonight is about Kershaw,' Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. It was 1-all when Taylor drew a two-out walk in the sixth. Turner followed with his drive off the bearded Keuchel . 'Keuchel was really good tonight. He was just a pitch or two less than Kershaw,' Hinch said. While it was sticky, the conditions didn't seem to affect either side. Kershaw, as always, wore his bright blue Dodgers jacket walking to the bullpen to get ready. 'It was hot warming up. But once the game started, the sun went down, it didn't feel that hot,' Kershaw said. There is no reliable record for the hottest temperature at a World Series game. But weather data indicates this might've been the steamiest ever. Notorious for late arrivals, Dodger fans showed up early and the seats in the shaded sections filled up fast. Keeping with the theme, the stadium organist played 1960s hits 'Heat Wave' and 'Summer in the City' as Houston warmed up. When Vin Scully's familiar recorded call of 'It's Time for Dodger Baseball' boomed over the PA system, the crowd really let loose, with the entire ballpark standing and chanting for the pregame introductions. Scully drew a huge ovation when he was later shown on the video board, sitting in a box. Several players clapped along for the Hall of Fame broadcaster, who's nearly 90 and spent 67 seasons calling Dodgers games. Dustin Hoffman, Jerry Seinfeld and Lady Gaga were among the many celebs in the crowd of 54,253, along with Dodgers great Tom Lasorda and part-owner Magic Johnson. ___ More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball
  • An Illinois boy returning home after receiving treatment for a rare cancer was greeted by a bedroom renovation designed just for the young Cubs fan. When Ken Markiewicz heard a WGN report about Joey Ventimiglia, 7, a young Cubs fan battling cancer, he felt compelled to use his artistic skills to show his support. >> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news Ventimiglia was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, which is a rare type of brain tumor. Because of the tumor’s position, surgery is not an option, WGN reported. Ventimiglia has been receiving experimental treatment in Mexico to battle the aggressive cancer.  Markiewicz, who owns Crayons Gone Wild, offered to paint a Cubs-themed mural for Ventimiglia, free of charge. Markiewicz reached out to the Ventimiglia family with his idea and while Ventimiglia was at his latest treatment, Markiewicz transformed the boy's bedroom into a dream for a Cubs fan. Markiewicz painted a baseball on the boy's closet and got the entire Cubs team to sign the artwork. He also recreated the famous ivy-covered wall at Wrigley Field. Ventimiglia was in awe when he was wheeled into his bedroom and saw the Cubs-inspired artwork. To Markiewicz, he simply said, 'Thank you.
  • Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor visited New York’s Yankee Stadium to watch her beloved team take on the Boston Red Sox on Thursday, and it only made sense that she found herself right at-home in “The Judge’s Chambers.” >> Read more trending news Sotomayor, a Bronx-native, took a seat in the rooting section named for rookie Aaron Judge as the Yankees beat the Red Sox 6-2, The Washington Post reported. With a foam gavel stamped with “All Rise” in hand and wearing a black robe – both courtesy of the stadium, according to The Associated Press – Sotomayor could be seen smiling broadly as she cheered for the Yankees. Sotomayor has rooted for the Yankees since she was a child. She threw out the first pitch to kick off the 2009 season at Yankee Stadium.
  • Former major-league baseball star Don Baylor died Monday morning after a long struggle with multiple myeloma. He was 68. >> Read more trending news Baylor died at 4:25 a.m. Monday at St. David’s South Hospital in his native Austin, Texas, his son confirmed to the Austin American-Statesman. Baylor graduated from Austin High School as one of the first African-Americans to attend the school and the very first to play baseball and football for the school. He played 19 seasons in the major leagues and was a feared power hitter who was known for crowding the plate and taking a pitch -- lots of them. He was hit a then-record 267 times, an example of his toughness and fearless style. Baylor would have become the first black player in University of Texas history but for his decision to turn down a scholarship offer from legendary coach Darrell Royal to pursue a career in baseball. Baylor played for six different American League teams -- most notably the California Angels -- but also the Baltimore Orioles, Oakland A’s, New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox. Following his playing career, he became manager for the expansion Colorado Rockies with a six-year stint and later managed the Chicago Cubs for three seasons. He was drafted by Baltimore in the second round of the 1967 Major Leagues free agent draft and reached the majors in short fashion, making the club in 1970.
  • Rain delays during baseball games can become tedious, but not when the bullpens of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago Cubs get creative. >> Read more trending news While waiting out a 2½-hour rain delay in the top of the second inning Thursday afternoon at Wrigley Field, both bullpens competed against one another with dance-offs and mime acts.  The Cubs got it started with a variety of masks -- horses, chicken, an owl, a zebra and a unicorn. Then the Diamondbacks countered with T.J. McFarland putting on his uniform upside-down and dancing. But Arizona really gained an edge when four pitchers did their version of bobsledding, using chairs and leaning to the right and left, using their hands in sync to “steer” the vehicle properly. The Cubs answered back with Carl Edwards casting a line from a chair and “fishing,” catching a teammate who futilely flopped as he tried to disengage the hook. But the Diamondbacks won this battle with room to spare. Rubby De La Rosa became a human bowling ball as Arizona tried to convert a 7-10 split. De La Rosa rolled into Archie Bradley (the 7-pin) with the proper spin, causing the right-handed reliever to topple to his left and into Andrew Chafin. After an agonizing wobble, Chafin tumbled to the ground and the Diamondbacks converted the split. At that point, the Cubs’ bullpen conceded defeat. At least the bullpen pitchers fared better than a member of the Wrigley Field grounds crew, who tripped and got stuck on the tarpaulin as it was hauled over the infield. When the game resumed, the Diamondbacks also got the last laugh, winning 10-8 thanks to three home runs by Paul Goldschmidt.
  • The anticipation of opening a pack of baseball cards remains exciting for collectors of all ages, but a Tennessee man pulled an extraordinary card last week, and it was an emotional, life-changing moment.   >> Read more trending news Steve Winfree of Knoxville began dialysis for kidney disease in November and needs a transplant. On Thursday, Winfree, an avid collector, opened a pack of Topps cards. A special insert revealed that his wife, Heather Winfree, would be donating a kidney to him. As Heather filmed the event Winfree, 32, pulled cards of Angels outfielder Mike Trout, Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard and Yankees outfielder Clint Frazier.  Then he found a special Topps card with his own likeness on the front. As he read the back of the card he began to choke up, because he learned his wife was a match and would be donating her kidney. “Heather will be pitching a new kidney to him,” the card read. “They are sure to hit it out of the ballpark together!” “She kept saying, ‘You have a special insert there,’” Winfree told MLB.com. “I knew something was up because she never films me.” Winfree is an Atlanta Braves fan who collected cards as a youth. He said he stopped during high school but resumed his hobby “once I could afford it.” Opening packs of cards has been therapeutic for Winfree, his wife said. “There were a lot of times where we would be in the hospital and I would grab a pack and we would open them,” Heather Winfree told MLB.com. “The low-key fun gets our minds off the everyday stresses.” When he saw the special card, which resembles the 2016 Topps design, Winfree noticed the word “recipient” in place of where a player’s position was on the card. “I saw it coming,” he said. “But I lost it and I asked her, ‘You want to save my life?’” The emotional video of Steve Winfree reacting to the card has gone viral. He will receive the transplant at the Vanderbilt Transplant Center in Nashville. Steve Winfree said the response to the video has been gratifying. “Heather and I have been so overwhelmed with the kindness of people,” he said in a Twitter message Sunday night.
  • The son of former Atlanta Braves second baseman Keith Lockhart has been placed on life support after he was hit in the face by a baseball, according to media reports. >> Read more trending news  Jason Lockhart, 15, was hit Saturday, June 17, during a baseball tournament in South Carolina as he touched home plate. The catcher was throwing the ball back to the pitcher when it hit Jason in the face and broke his nose. Jason originally received stitches. While at a doctor’s office for a follow-up two days later to remove the tubes and packing in his nose, his nose began to bleed uncontrollably. A CT scan showed the fracture was worse than realized and there was a tear inside his nose, The Associated Press reported. Since then, doctors were working on controlling the bleeding. Keith Lockhart, who played with the Braves from 1997 to 2002 and is now a scout with the Chicago Cubs, has provided updates on social media and asked for prayers for his son. Jason underwent surgery to repair the fracture in his nose, but the bleeding persisted.  According to a Facebook post by Lockhart’s daughter, Sydney, who also has been providing updates on her brother’s condition, Jason was placed on life support Friday.  In part, she wrote on Facebook: “Last night they were able to put Jason into a paralytic state through meds and machines. This has helped stop any movement that could encourage or cause a bleed to begin.” The bleeding, however, continued. On Sunday night, Keith Lockhart wrote on Twitter that doctors at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite hospital were closing in on a possible cause for the bleeding: Late on Sunday, Sydney Lockhart wrote on her Facebook page: The doctors decided to take Jason into surgery to do an endovascular embolization today. They went in to his arteries and blood vessels and found the two most practical areas that could be feeding the areas where Jason has been bleeding. They went into both arteries on each side of his nose and cut off the blood supply. They are hopeful that this is the source of the bleeding. The surgery was a couple of hours long and Jason is now resting still on the ventilator to keep his vitals monitored and keep him comfortable. They will watch him for 24 hours and then he will go into surgery tomorrow to have his nose repacked and this will give them an opportunity to look back behind the packing to make sure there are no other areas bleeding. We are tired here but hopeful. The prayers and support that everyone has given to us is overwhelming and we are truly touched. Thank you so much. WE FEEL SO SURROUNDED This article contains information from The Associated Press.
  • A security guard is being criticized on social media after ejecting a fan and taking a baseball from a child during an Atlanta Braves game in SunTrust Park on Wednesday night. After Braves player Rio Ruiz hit a ball down the right field line at the bottom of the eight inning, a fan reached over the outfield wall with his glove, snagged the ball and handed the ball to a child. Video appears to show a security guard jump over the wall and eject the fan from the stadium for interfering with live play. The security guard also told the boy that he couldn’t keep the ball he was holding, then took it from him. After Wednesday night’s game, Braves officials contacted the boy’s family and gave him a Freddie Freeman-signed ball, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The boy was also invited back to a game to celebrate his birthday in July. The Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Braves, 12-5 in extra innings. There was plenty of reaction on Twitter to the incident, from media and fans who watched it unfold on their televisions.