For four innings, James McDonald and Tim Hudson put on a pitching clinic. Hudson held the Bucs hitless; J-Mac gave up a walk and single - and one of those runners was caught stealing.
In the fifth, a double and a two-out intentional walk put McDonald in a little hot water, but he had Hudson up and skipped away free, getting him to pop out. The Bucs got their first two hits off Hudson, with Jones and Dewey singling, but a DP in the middle put Pittsburgh to bed without denting the scoreboard.
In the sixth, J-Mac flirted with danger again, loading the bases with one out. And again, he came up aces, getting Derrek Lee to smack into an around the horn DP. McCutch drilled a two-out double, but it remained scoreless after six.
McDonald pitched a clean seventh, his last frame. His line ended up seven innings, giving up five hits, three walks (two intentional) and three K's while delivering 109 pitches. And it wouldn't go unrewarded.
Pittsburgh erupted in their half, chasing Hudson. Jones and Pedro doubled with one out, and Dewey was intentionally walked. Ronny Cedeno delivered a dagger in the form of a two-run triple to right center.
Snyder struck out, and Bobby Cox brought on lefty Eric Flaherty to face pinch hitter Delwyn Young. DY welcomed the change; he crushed his seventh homer of the year into left, and the Pirates had broken it open, 5-0.
Evan Meek took over in the eighth, and got three ground outs. Michael Dunn took the hill for the Braves, and escaped a Neil Walker two-bagger to toss a scoreless frame.
After a rain delay, JR brought in Joel Hanrahan to work the ninth, a mild surprise with such a big cushion, but the middle of the Brave order was due up; better safe than sorry. And safe it was, after JH walked one and struck out three to close the door.
Excellent fielding, great pitching, and clutch hitting. It was a beautiful game all around tonight; 'nuff said.
Zach Duke will go against Derek Lowe tomorrow night.
-- Neil Walker kept his fourteen game hitting skein alive the hard way. He got his only knock in the eighth, driving a two-strike fastball to the Notch for a double. The kicker: it was during a rainstorm, with thunder cracking all around the field. The tarps came out after the inning.
-- The Bucco suits sorted out the pitching logjam a bit. They announced that Brian Burres will stick in the rotation, and Brad Lincoln will work from the pen.
-- Andy LaRoche is the Pirate nominee for MLB's Roberto Clemente award, given to the player who "best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team."
His charity work in the Pittsburgh area, primarily with Down syndrome children, earned LaRoche the Pirates' nomination.
-- Oops! We were wrong about the minor league play-off schedule; Altoona starts tomorrow, but Bradenton played game one today.
They won 5-0 as Aaron Pribanic held Charlotte to six hits over seven innings. Like tonight's MLB game, it was scoreless going into the seventh, when the Marauders scored four times, keyed by forgotten prospect Shelby Ford's two-run double. Kyle McPherson shut the door on the Stone Crabs over the final two frames to ice the win.