After a disastrous homestand, the Atlanta Braves got their road trip off to a promising start in their last contest.
They’ll look to continue their recent strong play away from home when they continue a three-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday.
The Braves (49-56) beat the Pirates 4-2 on Tuesday in the first game of a six-game road trip that also includes a stop in Cincinnati. Atlanta was coming off a 1-5 homestand that included a three-game sweep at the hands of the New York Mets over the weekend.
“It was a tough homestand, and this is a good way to get out on a road trip,” manager Bobby Cox said.
The Braves won seven of nine on the road before the homestand, helping them to rebound after a 3-20 stretch from May 29-June 22. They are 14 games behind the first-place Mets in the NL East, putting their streak of 14 straight division titles in jeopardy, but trail the Reds by just 5 1/2 games in the wild-card race.
“For whatever reason, on the road recently we have been jumping ahead and staying ahead,” said starter John Smoltz, who pitched seven strong innings for the win on Tuesday.
Xavier Nady, acquired in a deal with the Mets before Monday’s non-waiver trade deadline, started at first base and went 1-for-4 with a single.
Paul Maholm (4-9, 4.96 ERA) will look to help the Pirates get back on track Wednesday. He allowed four runs and seven hits in seven innings of last Wednesday’s 8-4 win over Milwaukee, his first since July 3.
Maholm bounced back nicely after giving up a three-run homer in the first inning.
“To rebound in the manner in which he did after the first three hitters of the game was terrific for a young kid to do that, and it’s very encouraging to see that,” manager Jim Tracy said.
Maholm, who had been 1-5 with a 5.68 ERA in his previous nine starts, said he made a slight adjustment to his delivery between outings to make his pitches dive more at the plate.
“I finally got comfortable with it and just went right after the hitters and just let them hit it into the ground and let our defense work,” said Maholm, who has never faced the Braves.
Pittsburgh starters have pitched into the seventh inning in five of their last six games.
Atlanta will counter with Horacio Ramirez (5-4, 4.52), who allowed five runs, seven hits and walked five in 3 1-3 innings of Friday’s 6-4 loss to the Mets. Ramirez, though, has allowed three or fewer runs in eight of 11 starts since returning from the disabled list on May 27.
In the other three, however, he has given up 18 runs in six innings.
Ramirez is 2-0 with a 2.63 ERA in three career starts against the Pirates.