ATLANTA (AP) -- The Atlanta Braves still have hopes of making it
back to the playoffs, but the schedule doesn't look very favorable
the rest of the way.
Twenty-two of the last 36 games are at home.Freddy Sanchez hit a tiebreaking homer in the seventh inning to
hand Atlanta another loss at Turner Field, leading the Pittsburgh Pirates past the Braves 5-4 Wednesday night.Jason Bay also homered for the Pirates, who won two of three in
Atlanta after coming into the series with baseball's worst record
on the road. They won only their third series away from PNC Park,
having lost 17 and split another.The Pirates won two straight at Turner Field for the first time
since Aug. 12-13, 1997, which was also was their last series win in
Atlanta."I didn't know about that," said Pittsburgh starter Ian Snell.
"I was still in high school then."Of course, this is hardly the same Atlanta team that came into
the season with a record 14 straight division titles and is on pace
for its worst home record since 1989 -- two years before the streak
began. The Braves dropped to 26-33 at Turner Field, the majors'
second-worst home record.
All-time home run leaders:
Atlanta failed to make up ground on wild-card leader Cincinnati,
remaining 6½ back with all those home games remaining.
"You've got to look at it as a negative right now, just by the
numbers," said Adam LaRoche, who homered for the Braves. "We're
better on the road for some reason. Why that is, no one knows."Suburban Atlanta native Matt Capps (4-1) struck out Matt Diaz
with the bases loaded to end the sixth and wound up with the win
when Sanchez homered off Chad Paronto (1-1) with two outs in the
seventh, snapping a 4-all tie.Mike Gonzalez struck out the side in the ninth for his 23rd save
in as many chances.Atlanta's Chipper Jones hit the 350th homer of his career to tie
Chili Davis for the third-most by a switch-hitter in baseball
history. Only Mickey Mantle (536) and Eddie Murray (504) have more."Pretty cool," Jones said. "When I started my career, I
wanted to be up there with Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray. Those
were my two idols, two guys that I tried to model myself after.
I've still got a long way to go to catch up to them, but at least I
can say for a while I was third."Bay led off the second with his 28th homer, and the Pirates made
it 2-0 in the fourth on Bay's run-scoring double. That began a
stretch of four straight innings in which Pittsburgh scored, but
they squandered several chances for a bigger lead against Atlanta
starter Tim Hudson.Jose Castillo grounded into an inning-ending double play with
the bases loaded in the fourth. Sanchez did the same with runners
at first and third in the fifth. The weak-hitting Snell struck out
to end the sixth with runners at second and third.Hudson, still recovering from a respiratory bug going through
the Braves clubhouse, was lifted after his final escape act. He
gave up eight hits, walked two and threw 93 pitches.The Pirates caught a big break in the fourth when Jack Wilson
was called safe by second base umpire Larry Vanover, even though
the television replays clearly that a throw from shortstop Edgar Renteria for the force beat the runner. Wilson wound up scoring.Snell gave up only three baserunners through the first five
innings, but the Braves made their hits count.In the fourth, Jones homered over the center-field wall to cut
the Pirates' lead to 2-1. LaRoche went deep the next inning,
driving it over the right-field wall to bring the Braves within
3-2.After Pittsburgh made it 4-2 in the sixth on Castillo's
sacrifice fly, Atlanta knocked out Snell in the bottom half. Brian McCann, mired in an 0-for-11 slump, went the opposite way for a
two-out, run-scoring single. Free-swinging Jeff Francoeur loaded
the bases by working hard for a rare walk, fouling off two straight
3-2 pitches before taking ball four.The Pirates called on lefty John Grabow to face LaRoche, who
took four straight balls to force in the tying run. But Capps
struck out Diaz to end the inning, drawing cheers from a hometown
contingent that made the short drive from Douglasville, just west
LaRoche has three homers off Snell this month, hitting two
in Atlanta's 4-2 win at Pittsburgh on Aug. 1. ... The Pirates are
17-48 on the road.