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Braves Bats Need To Return To Life Against Pirates This Afternoon

(Sports Network) – Atlanta’s offense has been mostly shut down during its current stretch of four losses in five games. That is exactly what starter Tim Hudson has done to Pittsburgh over the last few years, though.

Hudson looks to extend a run of 22 consecutive innings of not allowing an earned run versus the Pirates, who continue a three-game set with the struggling Braves tonight at PNC Park.

Atlanta has been held to a pair of runs or less in each of its last four losses and is just 8-10 since Aug. 19. Those struggles have allowed Philadelphia to close within a half-game of the first-place Braves in the National League East.

The club should be glad to have Hudson, who hasn’t allowed an earned run versus the Pirates since Aug. 23, 2006. He has won each of last three starts against them, including a May 21 outing in which he threw eight shutout innings and worked around three hits and four walks to improve to 5-3 with a 2.45 earned run average lifetime versus Pittsburgh.

The 35-year-old is coming off his first loss since July 17, as he had a six- decision win streak end on Thursday versus the Mets after allowing four runs — three earned — over seven innings. He dipped to 15-6 on the season, and his 2.30 ERA is tied for second-best in the NL.

The right-handed Hudson is also 5-2 with a 2.71 ERA in 13 road starts and hasn’t lost as the guest pitcher since June 23.

Atlanta will try to supply its hurler with more offense than it managed last night, when David Ross plated the Braves’ only run with a sacrifice fly. Derrek Lee added two hits and scored that run on his 35th birthday, while starting pitcher Tommy Hanson allowed three runs — two earned — in six innings to take the loss.

“We had some hits and we had some runners,” said Atlanta manager Bobby Cox after his club left 10 men on base and went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. “We just didn’t get the big hit to get back in the game. We thought we were going to get it just about every inning, but it never happened.”

Neil Walker paced the Pirates with a two-run homer, his fifth long ball on a 13-game hitting streak in which he is hitting .404 (23-for-57) with 16 RBI. Jose Tabata added an RBI and scored a run for the Pirates, who had lost seven of nine overall before the game and picked up just their second victory in seven meetings with the Braves this year.

Atlanta has still own eight of the last 12 overall in the series.

Stepping in for an injured Jeff Karstens (shoulder), Brian Burres gave up one run over six innings for Pittsburgh, working around five hits without a walk.

“I can’t say enough of the job he did out there today,” said Pirates manager John Russell about Burres after the game. “He kept us in the game. We knew coming in facing the three pitchers we’re going to face that it’s going to be tough and he did a great job for us.”

James McDonald tries to put the brakes on a three-start slide this evening for Pittsburgh, a skid in which he has pitched to a 7.71 ERA.

The right-hander was charged with three runs over five innings in a loss to the Cubs on Wednesday, falling to 2-4 with a 5.03 ERA in six starts since being acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

McDonald, 25, will be making his first career start versus the Braves but has faced them twice in relief, striking out five over four scoreless innings.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.