Published November 20, 2014
James McDonald pitched seven innings, Ronny Cedeno's triple keyed a five-run seventh and the last-place Pittsburgh Pirates beat the slumping Atlanta Braves for the second straight day, winning 5-0 on Tuesday night.
The Braves dropped into second place in the NL East, one-half game behind Philadelphia, which beat Florida 8-7 on Tuesday. The Braves had been in sole possession of the division lead every day since May 31.
It's easy to find a culprit for the Braves' slide — they have scored only 12 runs while losing five of six, a slump that followed a five-game winning streak. The Pirates had lost seven of nine and were on pace to lose 109 games before winning the first two games of the three-game series.
Tim Hudson (15-7), losing his second straight after winning six in a row, held the Pirates to three hits over six shutout innings, but he retired only one batter during the Pirates' breakthrough seventh inning. He was charged with four runs after pitching 28 consecutive innings against Pittsburgh without allowing an earned run.
Hudson left one batter later, and reliever Eric O'Flaherty gave up pinch-hitter Delwyn Young's two-run homer into the left-field bleachers. Young's seventh homer was the Pirates' first by a pinch-hitter in 29 at-bats.
McDonald, the former Dodgers prospect, made the most effective of his seven starts with Pittsburgh and his first against Atlanta, limiting the Braves to five hits.
Joel Hanrahan closed it out in the ninth — following a 43-minute rain delay — for his second save in as many days, and his fifth in eight opportunities. Evan Meek pitched a scoreless eighth as the three pitchers combined for Pittsburgh's sixth shutout. Atlanta has been shut out 10 times.
The Braves twice looked like they might break through against McDonald, who gave up 14 earned runs in 16 1-3 innings while losing his last three starts.
They put two on with two outs in the fifth, but McDonald got Hudson to pop up.
An inning later, the Braves loaded the bases when Jason Heyward walked, Martin Prado doubled for only his second hit in 20 at-bats in PNC Park this season and Brian McCann was intentionally walked, but Derrek Lee grounded into a double play.
Lee, acquired from the Cubs to give the Braves a much-needed power bat down the stretch, has yet to homer and is batting .228 (13 for 57) in 17 games with Atlanta. Lee was hitless in four at-bats.
NOTES: Braves RHP Derek Lowe, who starts Wednesday, is 9-0 against the Pirates — the top unbeaten record by a current major league pitcher against any opponent. ... LHP Brian Burres will remain in Pittsburgh's rotation after limiting the Braves to one run in six innings on Monday. ... After calling up eight players from Triple-A Indianapolis, the Pirates have 35 on their active roster. ... The Braves' Bobby Cox is the last NL manager or player to remain continuously with his club since the Pirates last had a winning season in 1992. Cox's Braves beat Pittsburgh in the 1991 and 1992 NLCS. ... Pirates rookie Neil Walker doubled in the eighth to extend his hitting streak to 14 games (24 for 61, .393).