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Braves continue to struggle down the stretch
Atlanta drops fifth in last six games
The Pittsburgh Pirates' Ike Davis slides into second base with a double as Atlanta Braves second baseman Ramiro Pena, left, handles the late throw in the second inning of a baseball game Thursday in Atlanta. - photo by John Bazemore

ATLANTA — Edinson Volquez threw seven scoreless innings, Travis Snider and Neil Walker hit homers and the Pittsburgh Pirates moved within one game of the NL Central lead with a 10-1 win over the Atlanta Braves on Thursday night.

Pittsburgh, only one game behind first-place St. Louis in the division, will close its regular season with a three-game series at Cincinnati. The Pirates clinched a playoff spot on Tuesday night.

The Pirates won three of four from the reeling Braves. St. Louis, which did not play Thursday night, closes its regular season with a weekend series at Arizona.

Volquez (13-7) set a season high with 10 strikeouts and gave up only four hits. He closed his regular season with 18 consecutive scoreless innings.

Josh Harrison moved past Colorado's Justin Morneau (.317) for the lead in the NL batting race. Harrison had three hits, pushing his average to .319, and scored two runs.

Volquez added to his memorable night with an eighth-inning single that snapped his 0-for-45 drought since April 27. The Pirates had 16 hits, including three by Snider.

Starling Marte hit a two-run double in the seventh and Andrew McCutchen drove in two runs with a single in the eighth. Gaby Sanchez had a pinch-hit, run-scoring single in the sixth.

Snider has hit nine of his 13 homers on the road, including two in this series. His first-inning shot off David Hale (4-5) landed in the front row of the centerfield seats. Walker hit a two-run shot off Gus Schlosser in the eighth.

The Braves fell to 5-17 in September. There was a sarcastic cheer from fans when Ramiro Pena's fly ball to left field off Casey Sadler in the ninth drove in Jason Heyward as the Braves avoided their seventh shutout loss of the month.

The Braves' only hit through the first four innings was an infield single by Phil Gosselin in the fourth.

Atlanta didn't hit a ball out of the infield until the fifth. Following an infield single by Andrelton Simmons, Pena singled to left field, but Volquez pitched out of the jam.

Hale gave up two runs in 4 2/3 innings in his first start since June 28. He replaced Mike Minor, who was shut down for the remainder of the season on Tuesday with inflammation in his left shoulder.

Luis Avilan, Atlanta's second reliever, allowed four runs on four hits in 1 1/3 innings. Schlosser gave up four runs in the eighth.

Evan Gattis was 0-for-2 in his first start since Sept. 7. He had been held out with strep throat and a kidney stone and was replaced by Christian Bethancourt in the seventh.

The 10 runs were the most by the Pirates at Turner Field since the 2008 season opener.


Pirates: C Russell Martin started after leaving Wednesday night's game with tightness in his left hamstring.

Braves: 3B Chris Johnson was held out after leaving Wednesday night's game with a lower back strain. He said he was sore from adjustments to his back.


Pirates: RHP Vance Worley will face Reds RHP Mike Leake on Friday night.

Braves: The Braves close their season with a three-game series at Philadelphia. RHP Ervin Santana will try for his 15th win against Phillies RHP Jerome Williams on Friday night.

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