The Atlanta Braves look to continue their dominance over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Turner Field and win three straight at home for the first time in more than three months when the teams continue their series on Tuesday.
With a 3-0 victory Monday, Atlanta is 25-6 over Pittsburgh at home since the start of the 1998 season.
Atlanta went 53-28 at Turner Field last season, tying eventual NL champion Houston for the best home record in the National League. This season, though, the Braves have the league’s second-worst home record at 26-31.
Atlanta (59-65) has not won three straight at Turner Field since winning four in a row May 15-18.
Despite their poor home record, the Braves are 5 1/2 games behind wild card leader Cincinnati.
“We’re too good of a team not to be at least .500,” said the Braves’ John Smoltz who scattered three hits over eight innings Monday en route to his fifth straight home win. “We may not be a great team. We may not make the playoffs, but we have to get to .500. That should be the focus.”
Second baseman Martin Prado, sent to the minor leagues on April 25, was recalled before Monday’s game and had two hits including his first two career RBIs. Right fielder Jeff Francoeur went 2-for-3 and is batting .367 (11-for-30) with three doubles and six RBIs in his last eight home games.
After a solid performance in his first major league start in over three years, Oscar Villarreal (9-1, 4.13 ERA) goes again Tuesday.
Villarreal pitched five innings of one-hit ball in a 5-0 win over Washington on Thursday.
“I had very good control,” said Villarreal, the 12th starter used by the Braves in 2006. “My pitches were down. Everything I threw was down for five innings.”
The right-hander has yet to record a decision in two career games against Pittsburgh, allowing one run and two hits in two innings.
The Pirates (47-78)—owners of the worst record in the NL—have lost five of their last six overall and eight of their last nine on the road.
Second baseman Freddy Sanchez, who leads the NL in batting with a .349 average, is 0-for-8 in his last two games—a pair of losses in which Pittsburgh has scored just one run.
Shawn Chacon (1-1, 10.80) makes his first start since Aug. 9 when he takes the mound for the Pirates on Tuesday.
Chacon, who had been traded from the New York Yankees on July 31, gave up one run and three hits in five innings of a 3-2 win over Atlanta in his Pittsburgh debut on Aug. 3.
He could not build off that, though, as he allowed seven runs, six hits— including three home runs—and four walks in just 1 2-3 innings of a 14-1 loss to Houston in his next start.
“The ball was up in the zone when I did throw strikes. They made me pay,” Chacon said. “That’s pretty much the bottom line—I just stunk.”
The right-hander is 1-3 with a 4.94 ERA in seven career games against the Braves.