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Braves begin second half of season, Off to a quick start with 9-1 win over Pittsburgh

    ATLANTA — Andruw Jones and Brian McCann hit back-to-back homers to start a six-run sixth inning, and the Atlanta Braves beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 9-1 on Friday night.

    Tim Hudson (9-5) gave up five hits and walked one batter in seven shutout innings. He had four strikeouts and is 3-0 in his last four starts.

    The Braves, who have won 10 of 14, pulled to within 11⁄2 games of the first-place New York Mets in the NL East.

    The Braves had seven hits in the big inning, knocking Pirates starter Ian Snell out of the game. Snell (7-6) gave up three homers, two by McCann, who drove in four runs for the second straight game.

    The Braves, next to last in the NL with a .248 home batting average at the All-Star break, started the second half with 11 hits.

    Hudson hit a bases-loaded single and Edgar Renteria added a two-run single as the Braves sent 11 batters to the plate in the sixth. Chipper Jones and Matt Diaz also drove in runs in the inning.

    Snell gave up eight hits and seven runs, four earned, in five innings. He was charged with four runs in the sixth after allowing three unearned runs in the first. His ERA climbed from 2.93, fifth in the NL, to 3.11.

    Adam LaRoche, making his first return to Atlanta after he was traded to the Pirates on Jan. 19, committed a fielding error on a strange first-inning play that set the stage for three unearned runs.

    With two outs, Chipper Jones hit a sharp grounder to LaRoche, who dropped the ball as he began to run to first base. LaRoche looked back and continued to move toward first as he saw second baseman Freddy Sanchez pick up the ball.

    With both LaRoche and Snell running to cover first, Sanchez flipped the ball toward the bag, but the throw hit LaRoche on his back as Jones was safe on the play. LaRoche earned the error for the fielding miscue.

    Snell then walked Andruw Jones, and McCann followed with the three-run homer to right for a 3-0 lead.

    McCann, who homered and drove in four runs against San Diego in the last game before the All-Star break, had three hits — including a double — and four RBIs. He has four homers and 12 RBIs in his last six games.

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