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Braves lose on walk-off home run
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PITTSBURGH — The Atlanta Braves are specializing in dramatic, final at-bat victories this season. For a change, they found out what it’s like to be on the losing end.

Ryan Doumit homered with two outs in the 10th inning off Takashi Saito for his third hit, helping the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Braves 3-2 on Sunday and avoid a three-game sweep.

Doumit’s first career game-ending drive was his fourth homer this season and ended Atlanta’s five-game winning streak and Pittsburgh’s three-game losing streak. The Pirates averaged only two runs while dropping seven of their previous eight at home.

The Braves began the series with eight final at-bat victories and three in a row, including a 10-9 win Thursday over Cincinnati in which they rallied for seven runs in the ninth — the greatest such comeback in club history.

“We’ve been winning them just like that so, I guess, it’s payback time a little bit for us,” manager Bobby Cox said.

Saito (0-2) retired the first two batters in the 10th before Doumit drove a waist-high fastball into the right field seats, only the sixth homer by Pittsburgh in its last 21 home games.

“It’s just nice to win,” Doumit said. “To win feels good. I don’t care how it’s done.”

The Braves had won 10 of 12 overall and their last 10 against NL Central teams. They were denied their fourth consecutive series sweep of an NL Central opponent.

Octavio Dotel (2-0) pitched a scoreless inning for the victory, stranding two runners by striking out Martin Prado, who went 0 for 5 while twice grounding into double plays.

Pirates starter Zach Duke followed a 2-1 victory Tuesday over Philadelphia and Roy Halladay by allowing only an unearned run over seven innings, giving up seven hits but striking out five and walking none. Duke didn’t figure in the decision after pinch-hitter Eric Hinske tied it at 2 by homering in the eighth against Evan Meek, Hinske’s fourth homer and second in as many games.

The Braves’ lone run off Duke came after shortstop Ronny Cedeno drew an error by throwing wildly on Yunel Escobar’s grounder in the second, and Melky Cabrera and David Ross followed with singles.

“I didn’t put any added pressure on my self,” Duke said, referring to the Pirates’ brief losing streak. “I just tried to go out there and pitch and execute what I wanted to do.”

Braves right fielder Jason Heyward didn’t start because of a sore left thumb after originally being in the starting lineup, but walked as a pinch-hitter in the 10th and stayed in the game defensively. Heyward had four hits in the first two games of the series, including a home run and double as Atlanta won 7-0 on Friday.

The thumb was swollen and bothered Heyward slightly as Atlanta won 4-2 on Saturday, but the injury is not believed to be serious, Cox said.

Atlanta right-hander Kris Medlen, temporarily replacing the injured Jair Jurrjens in the rotation, shut out the Pirates on four hits over five innings, but couldn’t get out of the Pirates’ two-run sixth.

Andrew McCutchen tripled into right-center with one out and Medlen walked Garrett Jones. Steve Pearce’s sacrifice fly tied it. Doumit later singled in the second run.

“It didn’t work out this time, but we’re playing well and going to try to keep it rolling,” Medlen said.

In the fifth, Doumit doubled but was thrown out at the plate by right fielder Cabrera on Aki Iwamura’s single. Iwamura had been 0 for 34, the longest such streak by any Pirates position player since Mark Smith went 0 for 37 at the end of the 1997 season and the start of the 1998 season, according to STATS LLC.

“It was huge for me to get that base hit,” Iwamura said.

Iwamura doubled off Jesse Chavez in the seventh, his first extra-base hit in 55 at-bats this month.

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