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Hot streak continues, Braves get the sweep

Carlyle wins his third straight decision with Atlanta’s 5-1 victory over Pittsburgh

    ATLANTA — Buddy Carlyle was hardly concerned after giving up a first-inning homer to Freddy Sanchez.

‘‘One run’s not going to hurt us,’’ Carlyle said. ‘‘We’re going to score runs, so I don’t worry about it.’’

    Carlyle pitched eight impressive innings to win his third straight decision and the surging Atlanta Braves got four hits from Edgar Renteria, completing a three-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates with a 5-1 victory Sunday.

    Atlanta has won four straight, seven of eight and 12 of 16 since going 3-9 against Minnesota, Cleveland, Boston and Detroit last month. The Braves remained 1 1/2 games behind the first-place New York Mets in the NL East.

    Pittsburgh lost its third in a row after winning five of six entering the All-Star break.

    ‘‘Offensively, we did very little,’’ Pirates manager Jim Tracy said. ‘‘When you don’t score runs, you don’t have much of a chance of winning. The last three games, we haven’t swung the bats anything like the last two weeks leading up to the All-Star break.’’

    Making his first career appearance against Pittsburgh, Carlyle (4-2) gave up four hits, struck out four and did not walk a batter. The right-hander improved to 3-0 over his last four starts. ‘‘I’m going to be aggressive with mostly everybody,’’ Carlyle said.

    ‘‘I don’t have dominating stuff so I’ve got to get ahead, strike one. Luckily I was able to get ahead in the count and I was able to do more things 0-2.’’

    Jeff Francoeur, Yunel Escobar and Renteria each had an RBI single for the Braves.

    Atlanta made it 1-all in the first when Paul Maholm’s wild pitch allowed Escobar to score from third.

    ‘‘It got away from me,’’ Maholm said. ‘‘Overall, I thought I pitched decent, but the outcome wasn’t.’’

    Third baseman Jose Castillo’s throwing error in the fifth gave the Braves a 2-1 lead. Chris Woodward, who led off with a double, scored from second when Castillo fielded Carlyle’s sacrifice and threw too high to first.

    Carlyle advanced to second on the error, moved to third on Escobar’s groundout and scored on Renteria’s single to make it 3-1.

    Maholm (5-12) allowed three runs — two earned — and eight hits in six innings. He walked one and struck out two. The left-hander, who had a 3.90 ERA in his previous nine starts, dropped to 0-5 in the five starts that have followed his wins this season.

    Salomon Torres replaced Maholm to begin the seventh and gave up an RBI single to Francoeur that scored Chipper Jones from second and made it 4-1.

    John Grabow pitched the eighth for Pittsburgh, giving up Escobar’s RBI single before striking out Andruw Jones to escape a bases-loaded jam. Francoeur’s RBI was his team-best 28th with two outs.

    ‘‘All I was looking for was something over the plate,’’ Francoeur said. ‘‘It’s been a while since we’ve really put a winning streak together.’’

    Carlyle retired 12 straight batters before Castillo’s two-out triple in the fifth. He struck out Jack Wilson to end the threat.

    ‘‘That was a big strikeout,’’ Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. ‘‘I was debating whether to pitch to Wilson, who I like a lot, or go to the pitcher. And it worked. But Wilson’s a hard strikeout. It’s early in the game.’’

    Bob Wickman worked a perfect ninth to close it out.

    Maholm did not receive a decision in his only other start against Atlanta, giving up two runs in seven innings of the Pirates’ 3-2 loss last Aug. 2.

Notes: Pittsburgh has allowed a run in the first inning in each of its last five games. ... The Braves improved to 29-12 against the Pirates at Turner Field. ... Pittsburgh placed third baseman Jose Bautista (left hand) on the 15-day disabled list and activated Torres from the DL. ... The Pirates also purchased the contract of rookie infielder Don Kelly from Triple-A Indianapolis and designated reliever John Wasdin for assignment.

    LaRoche glad for time in Atlanta

    Now that he’s spent 91 games with Pittsburgh, former Braves first baseman Adam LaRoche recalls his three seasons with Atlanta fondly.

    LaRoche, who had one of just four hits off Atlanta pitching in the Braves’ 5-1 victory on Sunday, was coming off a career year with a .285 average, 32 homers and 90 RBIs.

    Atlanta traded him to Pittsburgh last Jan. 17 for reliever Mike Gonzalez, but LaRoche harbors no bitterness to his former team. The Braves won their 13th and 14th straight division titles in 2004-05 as LaRoche shared the job at first with Julio Franco.

    With a 50-42 record this year, Atlanta is 1 1/2 games behind the New York Mets in the NL East. Pittsburgh, at 40-51, is in fourth place in the NL Central and 11 games behind division-leading Milwaukee.

    LaRoche doesn’t regret the trade as much as he misses some of his old teammates.

    ‘‘Those are class guys, a group of guys I’ll never forget,’’ LaRoche said. ‘‘They have everything going, and we didn’t have it going.’’

    Despite a horrid April in which he hit .133 with 30 strikeouts in 83 at-bats, LaRoche thought his struggles were finished after he batted .283 and lowered his whiffs to 20 in 99 plate appearances in May.

    LaRoche’s average in June was just .238, but his 51 overall RBIs are just five less than Jason Bay to rank second on the club.

    Stand by your man

    Manager Bobby Cox is well known for his willingness to speak positively about his players no matter their numbers.

    Not surprisingly, Cox believes center fielder Andruw Jones will continue to work hard to rediscover his stroke consistently.

    One change Jones recently was to choke up on the bat, similar to the approach that Barry Bonds, the majors’ all-time No. 2 home run hitter, has used so successfully in his career.

    ‘‘He’s waiting on the ball so much better,’’ Cox said of Jones. ‘‘You can let it come to you. There are lot of pluses. If it’s good enough for Bonds, it should be good enough for anybody.’’

    Unfortunately on Sunday, Jones struck out with the bases loaded to end the eighth to finish the day 0-for-4, lowering his average to .211. Entering the game, Jones had hit safely in 13 of 14 games for a .302 average, six homers and 15 RBIs.

    By the numbers

    SS Edgar Renteria pushed his average to .327 with four hits, which gave him 114 for the season and tied him with Arizona’s Eric Byrnes for seventh place in the NL. ... 3B Chipper Jones began the day tied with Colorado’s Matt Holliday with a .339 average, but going 0-for-3 dropped his mark four points. ... The Braves are 19-23 against left-handed starters. Their 42 such games lead the majors by 10 over Cincinnati. ... RHP Kyle Davies’ start Monday will be the third of his career against the Reds. In 10 career innings, Davies has a 1-0 record and a 7.20 ERA when facing Cincinnati. ... OF Willie Harris recorded his 14th stolen base in 18 chances when he beat the throw from Pittsburgh C Ryan Doumit in the eighth.

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