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In return from Classic, Simmons homers twice

Freeman also goes deep twice, Braves' offense erupts for second straight game

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Freddie Freeman and Andrelton Simmons each hit a pair of home runs, and the Braves' potent offense once again erupted in Wednesday afternoon's 18-9 win over the Pirates at Champion Stadium.

The Braves, who hit five home runs, scored 17 runs in their last game, a win over the Phillies on Monday.

Freeman highlighted his 4-for-4 performance with a pair of two-run shots. Simmons hit a three-run blast, a solo shot and doubled in his first Grapefruit League game since leaving for the World Baseball Classic on Feb. 23.

Freeman finished a triple shy of the cycle and leads the Grapefruit League with seven home runs. The Braves first baseman hit an opposite-field home run off the left-center field scoreboard in the second inning and then capped his productive afternoon by sending a Vin Mazzaro pitch over the right-field wall in the fifth.

Simmons, who helped the Netherlands reach the Classic semifinals, drilled a solo home run off Pirates starter Kyle McPherson in the fourth, and his three-run shot came off Mazzaro in the fifth. The Braves shortstop started a five-run first inning with a double off the center-field wall.

Braves starting pitcher Mike Minor capped the scoring in the first with an RBI double, but experienced his shakiest outing of the spring. He allowed five runs on 10 hits and three walks and lasted only four innings. He recorded five strikeouts -- three against Starling Marte -- and benefited from two Pirates being tagged out at the plate.

The Pirates pulled within 7-5 with a four-run third inning highlighted by Andrew McCutchen's two-run home run. Michael McKenry and McPherson capped the inning's scoring with consecutive RBI singles.

Dan Uggla went 2-for-3 with three runs, Chris Johnson was 2-for-5 with two RBIs and Jordan Parraz capped the scoring with a pinch-hit three-run homer in the seventh.

Up next: Tim Hudson will take another step toward a potential Opening Day start when he faces the Nationals at Champion Stadium at 6:05 p.m. ET on Thursday. Fans can watch the game live on MLB.TV and SportSouth. Hudson will attempt to complete seven innings and then go back down to around four innings in his final tune-up before the regular season next week. The Braves have not announced their Opening Day starter, but Hudson seems to be the likely candidate.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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