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Pirates-Braves Preview

AP - Sports

The last time James McDonald took the mound, he flirted with a no-hitter but couldn't help the Pittsburgh Pirates earn a victory.

Pittsburgh's league-worst offense will look to provide McDonald with more run support Monday night in the finale of a four-game set against the host Atlanta Braves, who seek to win their sixth straight series.

The Pirates (9-12) have scored a total of 49 runs - 17 fewer than any other club in the majors - after Sunday's 4-3 loss to Atlanta. They are batting .224 as a team.

Given that lack of offense, the only reason Pittsburgh is anywhere close to .500 is the pitching staff and its 2.77 ERA.

"Everybody's been doing a great job, every single time giving us a chance to win the game. That's what's been really impressive," catcher Rod Barajas told the team's official website. "It's easy to be down on ourselves because we're not swinging the bat. But for me, it's a lot easier when we're pitching well but not hitting. I wouldn't want it the other way around."

McDonald (0-1, 2.78 ERA) is surely glad to be pitching well, but he could also use more help from his offense, which has supported him with two runs in 22 2-3 innings over four starts.

McDonald took a no-hitter into the seventh Wednesday, ultimately giving up one run and one hit while striking out eight in seven innings, but didn't earn a decision in a 2-1 loss to Colorado.

"I was like, 'man, two more innings is all I needed,'' McDonald said of the no-hit bid. "You're aware of it, but are you thinking about it pitch by pitch. I'd rather have the win over the no-hitter.''

The right-hander has been stellar against Atlanta, going 2-0 with a 0.81 ERA in four career appearances, including three starts.

McDonald will be opposed by Mike Minor (2-1, 3.42 ERA), who allowed three runs in six innings but didn't earn a decision in Tuesday's 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The left-hander gave up one run in 5 2-3 innings last May 25 in Atlanta's 4-2, 11-inning win over the Pirates, his only career start against Pittsburgh.

The Braves (14-8) have taken two of the first three games versus the Pirates, and haven't lost a series since being swept by the New York Mets in three games to begin the season.

Michael Bourn went 3 for 4 and Martin Prado homered Sunday to help Tim Hudson win his first start after offseason surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back.

Brian McCann walked twice after sitting out Saturday's game with a strain in his ribcage.

"I don't think I can re-injure it doing anything," McCann, who is 0 for 5 lifetime against McDonald, told the Braves' official website. "It's just a matter of dealing with a little twinge."

The Braves have won seven of their last 10 games against the Pirates, though the teams split a four-game set at Turner Field last July 25-28.

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