Pirates take first two games of series vs. Braves

PITTSBURGH -- After being in sole possession of the NL East lead every day for more than three months, they're now the second-place Atlanta Braves.

They don't like the sound of it at all.

James McDonald pitched seven innings, Ronny Cedeno's triple keyed a five-run seventh and the last-place Pittsburgh Pirates knocked the Braves out of first place, winning 5-0 on Tuesday night for their second victory over Atlanta in as many days.

The Philadelphia Phillies beat the Florida Marlins8-7 to take the lead that Atlanta had held every day since May 31.

It's easy to find a culprit -- the Braves have scored only 12 runs while losing five of six, a slump that followed a five-game winning streak. The Pirates had lost seven of nine and were on pace to lose 109 games before winning the first two games of the three-game series.

"Did we expect to be in first place until the end of the season? I mean, it would have been nice," Braves starter Tim Hudson said. "But we understand that Philly is a pretty good team. There's a lot of games left (six) with Philly."

Hudson (15-7), losing his second straight after winning six in a row, kept the Pirates hitless until the fifth and without a run through six. But the right-hander retired only one batter during the Pirates' breakthrough seventh inning, giving up four runs after pitching 28 consecutive innings against Pittsburgh without allowing an earned run.

"For a while, I didn't know if we were going to get a hit," Pirates manager John Russell said. "Hudson was really good, but we found a way."

Garrett Jones and Pedro Alvarez doubled in succession with one out for the game's first run. After Ryan Doumit was intentionally walked, Cedeno tripled off the right-field wall to make it 3-0.

Hudson left one batter later, and reliever Eric O'Flaherty gave up Delwyn Young's two-run homer into the left-field bleachers. Young's seventh homer was the Pirates' first by a pinch-hitter in 29 at-bats.

"I wasn't able to put up zeros when we needed it," Hudson said. "When it's a 0-0 game late, you start realizing that one or two runs could be the difference in the game."

A day after outfielder Matt Diaz said the Braves remain very confident, manager Bobby Cox said he senses no panic.

"No, they're not," Cox said when asked if his players are pressing. "You can say that all you want, but it's not. It's a case where we ran up against some pitchers we haven't hardly seen, and that's what happens sometimes. No, we're not pressing."

McDonald, the former Los Angeles Dodgers prospect, made the most effective of his seven starts with Pittsburgh and his first against Atlanta, limiting the Braves to five hits.

"You know who you're going against, and you know you've got to bring it when you're going against a guy like that [Hudson]," McDonald said. "I showed them a mix of pitches. They're a good-hitting team, [so] don't let them get comfortable with one thing, don't keep the pattern the same."

Joel Hanrahan closed it out in the ninth -- following a 43-minute rain delay -- for his second save in as many days, and his fifth in eight opportunities. Evan Meek pitched a scoreless eighth as the three pitchers combined for Pittsburgh's sixth shutout. Atlanta has been shut out 10 times.

"We've just got to get some runs," Cox said. "He [Hudson] pitched plenty good. We've got to get some runs."

The Braves twice looked like they might break through against McDonald, who gave up 14 earned runs in 16 1/3 innings while losing his last three starts.

They put two on with two outs in the fifth, but McDonald got Hudson to pop up.

An inning later, the Braves loaded the bases when Jason Heyward walked, Martin Prado doubled for only his second hit in 20 at-bats in PNC Park this season and Brian McCann was intentionally walked, but Derrek Lee grounded into a double play.

Lee, acquired from the Cubs to give the Braves a much-needed power bat down the stretch, has yet to homer and is batting .228 (13-for-57) in 17 games with Atlanta. Lee was hitless in four at-bats.

Game notes
Braves right-hander Derek Lowe, who starts Wednesday, is 9-0 against the Pirates -- the top unbeaten record by a current major league pitcher against any opponent. ... Cox is the last NL manager or player to remain continuously with his club since the Pirates last had a winning season in 1992. ... Pirates rookie Neil Walker doubled in the eighth to extend his hitting streak to 14 games (24-for-61, .393).