Series: Game 2 of 4

Series tied 1-1 (as of 7/27)

Game 1: Monday, July 26
Game 2: Tuesday, July 27
Game 3: Wednesday, July 28
Game 4: Thursday, July 29

Braves 4

(53-46, 26-24 away)

Pirates 8

(48-50, 26-24 home)

    7:05 PM ET, July 27, 2004

    PNC Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 

    123456789 R H E
    ATL 000300100 4 12 3
    PIT 00002051 - 8 11 0

    W: M. Gonzalez (3-0)

    L: K. Gryboski (1-2)

    Estrada errors fuel Pirates' rally

    PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Pirates went weeks without winning earlier this season. Now, during a little-noticed and totally unexpected turnaround, they seem to invent different ways to win nearly every day.

    Rob Mackowiak came around to score on a bizarre, bases-loaded double when Atlanta catcher Johnny Estrada made two errors in a span of seconds, and the Pirates rallied with a five-run seventh inning to beat the Braves 8-4 Tuesday night.

    The comeback -- Pittsburgh once trailed 3-0 -- was the Pirates' third in four days and gave them their 15th victory in their last 17 home games. They rallied from three runs down to beat Cincinnati 14-4 Saturday and four runs down to beat the Reds 6-5 Sunday.

    "We're getting better, we're starting to pick it up, but we got lucky tonight," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "We weren't in it at all ... until we got some breaks."

    Not only did Atlanta's four-game winning streak end, so did J.D. Drew's 22-game hitting streak as he went 0-for-3. The streak tied for the fifth-longest in Braves history.

    The Pirates moved out of last place for the first time since early May and are within two games of .500 (48-50) after being 15 games under on June 22, following a dismal stretch of 21 losses in 25 games.

    "Now when we make a mistake, we say, 'Oh, well,' " Bobby Hill said. "Earlier, we would say, 'Oh, we're in trouble.' We know our pitching will pick us up or we [the hitters] will pick them up. We're picking each other up when we get behind, and that's what good teams do."

    Atlanta's problem during a brief but pivotal span was being unable to pick up the ball at all.

    Paul Byrd was cruising with a 3-0 lead before allowing Jason Kendall's two-run homer in the sixth, then left after Hill and pinch-hitter Abraham Nunez singled with one out in the seventh and the Braves up 4-2.

    That brought on Kevin Gryboski (1-2), who gave up Kendall's infield single before shortstop Rafael Furcal booted Jack Wilson's potential double-play grounder for his 16th error, scoring Hill.

    Mackowiak then hit an opposite-field drive over the head of left fielder Charles Thomas. As Mackowiak pulled into second, Kendall and Wilson arrived at the plate within a few steps of each other. Kendall scored standing up, but Wilson slid across safely only when Estrada mishandled the relay throw.

    Estrada hurried to pick up the ball and, realizing third base wasn't covered, tried to hold up his throw. But the ball slipped awkwardly out of his hand and skidded in front of the Pirates' dugout, sending Mackowiak home with a Little League version of an inside-the-park homer.

    "It was a weird play, the way it happened," Mackowiak said. "I'm just glad it worked out for us. "

    An inning later, Estrada's passed ball also scored the Pirates' final run.

    "I've never seen Johnny have a bad night behind the plate," manager Bobby Cox said. "We haven't had a night like that since the first month of the season."

    The two errors and passed ball ruined another big night at the plate for Estrada, who homered to make it 4-1 in the top of the seventh and doubled to start a three-run fourth against Pirates starter Kip Wells. The All-Star catcher had three hits, giving him five in the first two games of the four-game series.

    "Debacle," Estrada said. "I've never used that actually, but we went from having a two-run cushion to just falling apart. ... It was a debacle."

    Andruw Jones also had a run-scoring double and Thomas added an RBI double in the fourth among his three hits.

    Wells gave up nine hits and three runs in six innings and has won only once in 12 starts. Byrd yielded seven hits and four runs in 6 1-3 innings, the first time he has allowed more than three earned runs in his seven starts.

    "I really don't know what to say," Byrd said. "It's pretty frustrating for me and for us. The game meant a lot, and I really don't know what happened. It was weird what was going on."

    Mike Gonzalez (3-0) allowed Estrada's homer but still was credited with the win. Salomon Torres pitched the eighth before Jose Mesa finished up in the ninth in a non-save situation.

    Game notes

    Thomas is among six Atlanta left fielders who have combined to hit .315. ... Drew went 33-for-87 (.379) during his streak. He did reach base for the 41st consecutive game. ... Atlanta lost for only the second time in 12 road games. ... Pittsburgh has won nine of 12 and 21 of 28. ... Atlanta is 31-16 against the NL East but 22-30 against all other opposition.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press