Braves 5, Pirates 4
“That’s what happens when you feel good from both sides of the plate,” Furcal said. “I’ve tried to be patient and have concentration. And I’m healthy. I’m going to home plate to get on base no matter how.”
Atlanta was 4 1/2 games off the NL East lead at the end of June, then went 18-8 to take a season-high five-game advantage over second-place Washington.
“We’re on a roll; we’re clicking,” said Marcus Giles, who had four hits to lift his batting average to .298.
Seeking its 14th straight division title, Atlanta is 6-0 on a homestand that ends with Monday’s finale of the four-game series against Pittsburgh.
“We’ve got two more months and we’ve got to keep winning,” said closer Chris Reitsma, who had two wins and eight saves in July.
Each team was involved in trades announced after the game. The Braves acquired reliever Kyle Farnsworth from Detroit for pitcher Roman Colon and minor league pitcher Zach Miner, and the Pirates got outfielder Jody Gerut from the Chicago Cubs for outfielder Matt Lawton.
“From a personal standpoint, I hate to lose Roman; he’s got a great future ahead of him,” Giles said. “From a team standpoint, we need to make moves that can fit in like a piece in a puzzle. Kyle Farnsworth fits in a little better into our puzzle right now.”
The Pirates have lost five straight and have gone 14-31 since June 11, when they were 30-30. John Grabow (2-1) gave up two runs and three hits in one-third of an inning for the Pirates.
“Until this stretch, we’ve actually been playing pretty good baseball,” Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said. “We have to keep things in perspective.”
Smoltz (12-5), who hasn’t lost since June 6 against the Los Angeles Angels, gave up three runs and eight hits in eight innings. Reitsma pitched the ninth for his 14th save in 18 chances, allowing a run-scoring single to Freddy Sanchez before ending the game by striking out Matt Lawton.
“I fight the frustration when I give up a few hits like that,” Smoltz said, referring to three infield hits by the Pirates. “I’m old enough to realize that I can fight through that and just keep it there. … All in all, to go eight innings was probably a bigger deal for me than anything else.”
Furcal had three hits of Atlanta’s 16 hits and scored three runs. He homered off Josh Fogg batting left-handed leading off the fifth, tying the score 3-all.
“He’s been a big part of this resurgence that’s allowed us to win,” Smoltz said. “He’s getting on base. He’s getting huge hits. He’s been the key.”
Furcal homered batting right-handed against Grabow leading off the seventh for a 4-3 lead.
“It was supposed to be down and away and I got it up,” Grabow said. “It wasn’t my day. I didn’t do my job.”
It was the second time in his career Furcal homered from both sides of the plate. He also accomplished the feat on April 15 at Philadelphia.
Chippers Jones’ RBI single and Andruw Jones’ sacrifice fly put Atlanta ahead 2-0 in the first.
Fogg gave up three runs and 11 hits in six innings. The 11 hits allowed matched his season high, on June 12 against Tampa Bay.
“I didn’t get the ball down at all today,” Fogg said. “Eleven hits in six innings proves the point that I wasn’t pitching down in the zone. … When Furcal got the home run in the fifth, it shifted the momentum back to them.”
Smoltz is 9-1 in his last 12 starts. … Giles had his second four-hit game this month and third this season. He had four hits against Chicago on July 7 and at Colorado on May 10. … Atlanta rookie OF Jeff Francoeur was 2-for-4, lifting his batting average to .413.