Braves gear up for playoffs, continue set with Pirates

The Atlanta Braves no longer have to focus on winning the National League East after the Washington Nationals claimed it Monday night.

The Braves, though, should keep their attention to heading into the postseason on a high note when they resume a three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates tonight at PNC Park.

Atlanta, which already punched its ticket to the playoffs via capturing the top wild card spot, suffered a 2-1 loss to the Pirates in the series opener. Paul Maholm did the best he could in the seven innings he was on the hill and was reached for both runs and five hits to absorb the loss.

Maholm struck out eight batters and walked three.

Jason Heyward knocked in the lone run for the Braves, who were eliminated from the race for the NL East crown with the setback.

"I'm proud of the guys," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of his team's pursuit of a division title. "We just kept battling, but it was going to be difficult because we didn't have any games to play against them (Washington), so it almost had to be a perfect ending for us."

Braves second baseman Dan Uggla missed the game due to swelling in his right hand and is day-to-day.

Tommy Hanson was able to end a lengthy slide his last time out and will shoot for back-to-back wins this evening. Hanson was 0-4 in his previous seven outings and defeated Miami in a 6-2 win last Thursday from Turner Field, where he gave up two runs -- one earned -- and six hits in 5 1/3 innings.

Hanson is 13-9 with a 4.38 earned run average in 30 starts and 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA in three career starts against Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh won for just the fourth time in 14 tries last night thanks to starting pitcher Jeff Locke and three relievers.

Locke limited the playoff-bound Braves to a run and two hits in six innings, while Jeff Karstens, Tony Watson and Jared Hughes each hurled a scoreless inning of relief. Hughes notched his second save in the process.

"It's a tough lineup," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Locke's outing. "He went after some people and turned in a very positive performance."

Starling Marte's solo home run in the fifth inning proved to be the difference and he finished with two hits and two runs scored. Chase d'Arnaud added an RBI groundout for the Pirates, who haven't had a winning season since 1992.

Taking the mound for the Buccos tonight will be Kevin Correia, who has lost two straight and three of four outings. In a 6-5 road loss against the New York Mets last Thursday, Correia was touched for six runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings to fall to 11-11 in 31 games (27 starts) with a 4.33 ERA.

The right-handed Correia lost to the Braves on April 29 and is 2-2 with a 3.93 ERA in 10 career games (6 starts) against them.

Pittsburgh and Atlanta split a four-game set from April 27-30 at Turner Field.