PITTSBURGH — James McDonald pitched six dominant inning and Gaby Sanchez hit a tiebreaking two-run home run Saturday night to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 3-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves.
In quite a contrast to his previous start, McDonald (2-2) struck out nine while allowing only one run on two hits. McDonald was tagged for eight runs in 1 2/3 innings on Monday in a loss to St. Louis.
Sanchez's first home run of the season broke a 1-1 tie and capped a three-run sixth. Paul Maholm (3-1) carried a two-hit shutout into the inning and had not allowed a run in 25 1/3 innings this season.
Atlanta (13-4), which has the best record in the major leagues, lost consecutive games for the first this season. It also marked the first time the Braves lost a game in which they had scored.
The Pirates' Starling Marte opened the decisive sixth by drawing a walk then was bunted to second by Jose Tabata.
Andrew McCutchen then drove in Marte to tie it with a double off the right-field wall on a night when fans received a bobblehead doll of the All-Star center fielder.
Sanchez followed by a driving a 1-2 pitch to center field to put the Pirates ahead. McCutchen and Sanchez each had two hits.
Jason Grilli pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning to stay perfect in save opportunities at 6-for-6.
McDonald issued four walks and three came in the second inning when he allowed his only run.
He hit Evan Gattis with a pitch to start the inning and the Braves then loaded the bases on Chris Johnson's double and a walk to Dan Uggla. One out later, Andrelton Simmons walked to force home Gattis.
McDonald bounced back to strike out Maholm and B.J. Upton to end the inning. The right-hander struck out the side in the first inning, setting down B.J. Upton, Jason Heyward and Justin Upton on 13 pitches.
Johnson had two of the Braves' four hits and hitting .467 (21-for-45) in his last 11 games. Pittsburgh (9-8) won for the sixth time in eight games and got above .500 for the first time.
NOTES: Atlanta 2B Uggla left the game in the middle of the fourth inning with a strained left calf. . The Braves placed INF Blake DeWitt on the 15-day disabled list with a strained lower back and recalled RHP David Carpenter from Class AAA Gwinnett. . Pittsburgh C Russell Martin made the ninth start of his career at third base but first since 2008 with the Los Angeles Dodgers. . Pirates LHP Francisco Liriano (broken right upper arm), pitching for Class AA Altoona on an injury rehabilitation assignment Saturday, gave up four runs and four hits in 2 2/3 innings in a loss to Harrisburg in the Eastern League. . Atlanta RHP Kris Medlen (1-1, 1.42), who has received just five runs of support in his three starts, pitches Sunday against LHP Jonathan Sanchez (0-2, 12.96) in the finale of the four-game series.