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Rodriguez masterful, Pirates blank Braves

The SportsXchange

PITTSBURGH -- Wandy Rodriguez was concerned Friday that his balky left hamstring might present a problem on a damp 49-degree night.

"I was a little bit scared, had a little fear of getting hurt again but then I just moved on and it was fine," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez allayed his fears with a brilliant seven-inning performance in a 2-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves at PNC Park as he combined with two relievers on a two-hit shutout.

Rodriguez (2-0) faced the minimum 21 batters and allowed only a fourth-inning single to Jason Heyward. He had not pitched since April 8 when he was forced from his start in the third inning at Arizona. Rodriguez missed his last scheduled start on Sunday against Cincinnati.

"Eleven days down? That's as sharp as you ever want to see a guy," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. "From the start, from pitch No. 1 to the 82nd pitch that he threw, he was excellent."

Mark Melancon and Vin Mazzaro completed the shutout, the Pirates' third of the season, with each pitching one inning. Mazzaro gave up a leadoff single to Andrelton Simmons in the ninth inning, but he was erased on a double play grounder off the bat of Gerald Laird.

The Braves have the best record in the major leagues at 13-3 despite losing for the second time in three games. All three losses have been by shutout.

"When you see a guy twirling like he did today, there's not any team that's going to put up much against him," Hurdle said. "It was like he was throwing darts."

Atlanta also leads the major leagues with 29 home runs, including four in the series opener Thursday night when they beat Pittsburgh, 6-4. However, Rodriguez has held the Braves without a homer in nine straight starts dating to 2008.

"I've never seen him not pitch well," Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Rodriguez. "He always gives us some fits. He's a left-hander who cranks up 91-92 mph, has a good curveball, knows how to pitch and you never get a good pass at him."

Atlanta's frustration showed in the seventh when B.J. Upton argued a called third strike leadoff the inning and was ejected by home plate umpire Sam Holbrook. Upton was particularly incensed when Holbrook made a hand gesture.

"He just pretty much said, 'just go back to the dugout' and I was going and then he kind of gave me a shoo-away like I was a fly or something like 'get away from me,'" Upton said. "I was good and I was going back to the dugout and that? No. That's it. I went from 0-to-60 pretty fast."

Braves starter Tim Hudson (2-1) was denied in his bid for his 200th career victory. He was tagged for six runs and nine hits in four-plus innings. Hudson was trying to become the 110th pitcher to reach the 200-win milestone.

Pedro Alvarez hit a two-run home run and Garrett Jones had a two-run single for Pittsburgh. Alvarez has homers in back-to-back games after going the first 14 games of the season without hitting any.

"The last few days have been pretty good for me," said Alvarez, who is hitting .115. "I'm getting in some kind of rhythm now and I'm stringing some good at-bats together. Hopefully, things are starting to turn for me. I feel good at the plate."

Alvarez's drive off Hudson in the second inning cleared the right-field stands and was estimated at 430 feet. That came a night after he blasted a 448-foot shot that slammed high off the batter's eye in center field and came against Atlanta's Julio Teheran.

Travis Snider, Neil Walker and Russell Martin had two hits each for the Pirates.

Pittsburgh used four extra-base hits to score the game's first three runs in the second inning off Hudson.

Walker led off with a triple down the left-field line and Alvarez followed with his long home run.

Martin then hit a double high off the right-field wall and scored on Jose Tabata's two-out double to right.

The Pirates doubled their lead to 6-0 with a three-run fifth. Jones hit an opposite-field two-run single to left to knock Hudson out of the game, and Andrew McCutchen scored on Anthony Varvaro's wild pitch with the bases loaded on what would have been an inning-ending strikeout of John McDonald.

NOTES Atlanta left-handed reliever Luis Avilan (strained left hamstring) will avoid time on the disabled list after throwing 25 pitches off a mound Friday without pain. He was injured Tuesday in the ninth inning of a game against Kansas City. ... Braves third baseman Juan Francisco did not start against a left-hander as he is hitting just .125 versus lefties this season but .361 against right-handers. ... Left fielder Starling Marte and shortstop Clint Barmes both were out of Pittsburgh's lineup. Marte went 0-for-5 with five strikeouts Thursday night against Atlanta to end his 10-game hitting streak and Barmes entered Friday hitless in his last 11 at-bats to drop his batting average to .100. ... Atlanta left-hander Paul Maholm (3-0, 0.00) faces Pirates right-hander James McDonald (1-1, 5.27) on Saturday night.
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