The Atlanta Braves are putting some distance between themselves and the rest of the National League East.
The Braves beat the Pirates 9-6 on Saturday for their fifth straight win. Rookie Jeff Francoeur homered and drove in four runs for Atlanta, which moved five games ahead of second-place Washington in the East.
“When you’ve got guys like Andruw (Jones), Chipper (Jones), Julio (Franco) and Marcus (Giles) in front of you, you have some RBI chances,” said Francoeur, who is hitting .406 with 16 RBIs in 42 at-bats. “A pitcher doesn’t want to pitch to those guys. He’d rather pitch to a rookie any day.”
The Braves, who swept the Nationals in three games coming into this series, scored seven runs in the sixth inning, their most in a frame since Aug. 22, 2004, when they had an eight-run second at Los Angeles. The Braves won six in row from July 3-8 just before the All-Star break.
Jason Bay homered and drove in four runs for the Pirates, who have lost four in a row after winning three straight. Pittsburgh, which had scored just two runs in its previous three games, is a season-worst 16 games under .500.
Smoltz is 7-0 with a 1.90 ERA in his last nine starts. He allowed two earned runs and eight hits in eight innings of the Braves’ 10-inning, 3-2 win over the Nationals on Tuesday.
“Today I didn’t have my split, but I had my changeup and slider, and mixed it around,” he said.