Pittsburgh, PA (Sports Network) - Martin Prado, Derrek Lee, and Alex Gonzalez each drove in two runs to back Derek Lowe's solid performance on the mound, as the Atlanta Braves handled the Pittsburgh Pirates, 9-3, to avoid a three-game sweep at PNC Park.
Omar Infante and Matt Diaz had an RBI apiece for the Braves, who snapped a three-game skid. Atlanta remained a half-game behind Philadelphia in the NL East standings after the Phillies beat the Marlins. The Braves lead the wild card race by two games over San Francisco, which lost to Arizona.
Lowe (12-12) gave up one run on eight hits over six innings to improve to 10-0 over 10 career starts versus Pittsburgh. The 37-year-old righty was pitching for the first time since August 29 due to lingering soreness in his pitching elbow.
Pedro Ciriaco, Brandon Moss, and Jose Tabata each drove in a run for the Pirates, who were trying to sweep the Braves for the first time since April 29-May 1, 1994. Pedro Alvarez had three hits in defeat.
Zach Duke (7-13) lasted just one-plus frame, giving up four runs on six hits. Daniel McCutchen came on in relief and was charged with four runs -- three earned -- on five hits over 1 1/3 innings.
"Just wasn't commanding the ball," Duke said. "I wasn't able to put the fastball where I wanted to. The times I did, it found a hole."
The Braves dominated the game from the start. With one out in the first inning, Jason Heyward, Prado, and Lee hit consecutive singles to plate the game's first run. Diaz walked two batters later to load the bases. Gonzalez followed with a two-run single to center to make it 3-0.
Pittsburgh loaded the bases with two outs in the home first, but Ryan Doumit struck out.
"I felt good," Lowe said. "There was never any issue of any pain and the game pretty much came down to one pitch in the first inning. We got three runs and they came back and loaded the bases, and it came down to the pitch to Ryan Doumit and I was able to make it and then we just kept piling on."
Atlanta scored another run in the second. Lowe doubled, Infante singled, and Heyward walked to load the bases with nobody out. Duke was removed from the contest in favor of McCutchen. Prado popped out before Lee walked to force in a run. The next two batters were retired to keep it a 4-0 game.
The visitors put a four-spot on the board in the third to open things up. Gonzalez and Melky Cabrera started the frame with back-to-back singles. Lowe put down a bunt that went right back to McCutchen, whose throw to third was way off the mark. Gonzalez scored on the play. Infante's infield single plated another run. After Heyward grounded out, Prado hit a two-run single to give the Braves an 8-0 lead.
Diaz's sacrifice fly in the top of the fifth made it a nine-run game. The Pirates, though, got the run back in the bottom half of the inning. With one out, pinch-hitter Lastings Milledge, Andrew McCutchen, and Tabata hit consecutive singles to plate a run.
The Pirates scored two runs off Christian Martinez in the ninth. Alvarez led off with a double and scored on pinch-hitter Ciriaco's double. Jason Jaramillo walked and Alex Presley singled to load the bases. Moss' infield single scored a run. Billy Wagner came in from the bullpen to record the final out of the game.
The Braves won the season series with the Pirates, 6-3...Pittsburgh finished a six-game homestand with a 3-3 mark...Atlanta ended a six-game road trip with a 2-4 record...Pirates rookie Neil Walker extended his hitting streak to 15 games...Pittsburgh had homered in a season-high seven straight games...Ciriaco and Presley each recorded their first hit in the big leagues.