Lowe remained unbeaten against the Pirates, and Melky Cabrera(notes) hit his first home run for Atlanta to help the Braves extend their season-best winning streak to five games with a 4-2 victory Saturday night.
After the start was delayed 92 minutes by rain, Lowe (6-4) needed 99 pitches to get through five innings but improved to 8-0 with a 2.96 ERA in eight starts against the Pirates. Four relievers combined to shut out Pittsburgh over the final four innings.
“This is a bullpen win,” Lowe said. “I know my name will be attached to it but it was really the bullpen that made the difference. Those guys pitched great and bailed me out.”
Lowe allowed two runs and five hits while walking four and striking out five. Home runs by Cabrera and Eric Hinske(notes) off major league loss leader Charlie Morton(notes) (1-8) staked Lowe to a 3-0 lead.
“He’s swinging the bat a lot better,” Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said.
Hinske made it 3-0 when he homered to right-center leading off the third.
Pittsburgh, which lost its third straight game, scored both its runs off Lowe in the fifth. Ryan Church(notes) doubled and scored on Lastings Milledge’s(notes) triple to center. Ronny Cedeno(notes) drove in Milledge with a squeeze bunt.
The Pirates stranded 14 as they went 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position.
“It was a frustrating night,” said Garrett Jones(notes), who lined into an unassisted double play by Hinske, his first base counterpart, to thwart a rally in the fifth after the Pirates had drawn within 3-2 an inning earlier. “We had plenty of guys on base but we just couldn’t get the big hit. It seemed like we were always one hit away from turning the game in our favor.”
The Braves took advantage of wildness by reliever Joel Hanrahan(notes) in the ninth to add an insurance run. Martin Prado(notes) scored on a two-out wild pitch as Brian McCann(notes) struck out but reached first base. Hanrahan had walked the bases loaded.
Pittsburgh manager John Russell was ejected by first base umpire Tim Timmons for arguing that McCann should have been called out when he reached on the wild pitch.
Billy Wagner(notes) pitched the ninth, working around a one-out walk, for his fifth save in six opportunities after Peter Moylan(notes), Eric O’Flaherty(notes) and Takashi Saito(notes) also shut down Pittsburgh.
Church and Milledge had three hits each. Church snapped an 0-for-19 skid.
Morton gave up three runs, two earned, and six hits in six innings with three walks and three strikeouts. He lowered his ERA to 8.71, the highest in the major leagues among starting pitchers with at least 20 innings.
Atlanta has won 10 of 12 to move three games over .500 at 23-20 and draw within 3 1/2 games of NL East leader Philadelphia.
“We’re playing pretty good baseball right now,” Hinske said. “We’re getting good pitching and good hitting. We’ve got some momentum going and we want to roll with it for as long as we can.”
NOTES: Pittsburgh 2B Aki Iwamura(notes), making his first start in a week because of a hamstring injury, went 0 for 3 with two walks and extended his streak of hitless at-bats to 32. … Atlanta SS Yunel Escobar(notes) was 0 for 4 and is 3 for 28 since a stint on the disabled list with a strained left adductor muscle in his groin. … The Braves have won nine straight games against NL Central teams.