Braves 10, Pirates 4

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PITTSBURGH (AP)—The Atlanta Braves have traded pitching for power, yet it hasn’t made much difference with the postseason less than a month away. They’re still the team to beat in the National League.

Andruw Jones, Vinny Castilla and Javy Lopez homered and the majors’ most proficient offense roughed up Pittsburgh’s pitching staff for the second straight day, leading the Braves to a 10-4 victory Sunday.

The Braves can complete a sixth 100-win season under manager Bobby Cox by going 13-13 in September. Only the Yankees’ Joe McCarthy has managed six 100-victory seasons with the same team.

Shane Reynolds (11-7), as he often does, benefited from the generous offensive support while allowing four runs and nine hits over 7 1-3 innings. Reynolds has a 5.34 ERA, but the Braves have averaged 6.6 runs in his 25 starts.

“When you’ve got Vinny Castilla hitting eighth like they did the other night, you know you’ve got something pretty good going on there,” Pittsburgh’s Reggie Sanders said. “They just make it happen. They pound you, pound you, pound you. They just play very good baseball. They’re aggressive, they’re smart and they seem to capitalize on every situation.”

Jones hit a three-run homer down the left-field line in the first to give the Braves a 3-0 lead against Jeff D’Amico (8-13), who gave up seven runs and 10 hits in three-plus innings. Jones’ 33rd homer was his second in as many days.

Castilla led off the second with his 22nd homer and Lopez hit his career-high 35th and fifth in as many games against the Pirates this season in the fourth, a three-run shot off Mike Lincoln. Jones has four homers against Pittsburgh this season and is 6-for-12 with two homers in his career against D’Amico.

Lopez wanted to get his career-best 35th out of the way so, he said, “Whatever comes the rest of the way is just extra.”

Cox hasn’t spent a lot of time thinking about his team’s transition this season from being baseball’s best pitching team, with its onetime stable of Cy Young Award winners, to its best offensive team.

“But it’s a comforting feeling knowing you can get back into a game with one swing of the bat,” he said.

The Braves had another breakout game Sunday even with Gary Sheffield and his 34 homers on the bench.

“When you have him, it’s really comforting,” Cox said.

Both three-run homers were set up the same way, with Rafael Furcal and Marcus Giles leading off innings with back-to-back singles. Giles had eight hits in the three-game series against the Pirates, only days after they traded brother Brian Giles to the Padres. Furcal reached base four times Sunday and nine times in the series.

The Braves hit six homers while outscoring the Pirates 23-10 on Saturday and Sunday and now have 206 homers, easily the most in the NL. Giles’ next homer would give the team six players with 20 or more in the same season.

Giles also had two more doubles Sunday, giving him 44, three shy of Tommy Holmes’ 1945 franchise record of 47.

While the Pirates again were running themselves into outs—they had four thrown out on the bases in the final two games of the series—the Braves ran themselves into runs.

Not playing like a team that began the day with a 14-game lead in the NL East, Furcal beat out an infield single between the mound and first leading off the fourth. Giles then stretched what appeared to be a routine single to right-center into a double when the Pirates’ outfield didn’t move aggressively to field the ball. That led to Lopez’s homer three batters later.

“You can’t play complacent,” Giles said. “If you do, you’re going to find yourself in trouble.”

Sanders had three hits for the Pirates, including a two-run single in the third. He went into the game knowing it could be his last for the Pirates—the Dodgers claimed him on waivers, and the teams were discussing a possible trade. The Pirates could recall the waivers if they don’t work out a deal.

“I’ve moved a lot in these last six years, and you learn it’s all part ofthe game,” Sanders said. “I just blocked it out and went out and played.”


Atlanta’s 87-49 record is the best in the majors. … The Pirates must go 19-9 in their final 28 games to avoid extending their club record string of losing seasons to 11. … Pittsburgh has only one homestand remaining this season, a 10-game stand in mid-September. … Pirates SS Jack Wilson’s 17-game hitting streak ended when he went 0-for-5. … Reynolds hit three batters. …Lopez hit 34 homers in 1998.

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