PITTSBURGH — Atlanta’s Chuck James held the slumping Pittsburgh Pirates hitless until Jason Bay singled in the seventh, and Scott Thorman homered twice in leading the Braves to a 9-2 victory Saturday night that extended their winning streak to five.
James (4-3), who has never thrown complete game in 26 major league starts, allowed just one hit in seven innings.
Pittsburgh, held to three runs or fewer in 19 of 35 games, held a pregame meeting to address hitting problems, then didn’t have anything resembling a hit until Bay lined a single into left field on a 1-0 pitch with one out in the seventh. The Pirates didn’t have a baserunner until James walked Jose Bautista and Jack Wilson in succession starting the sixth, and never advanced a runner past second until Jack Wilson’s RBI double keyed a two-run eighth against reliever Chad Paronto.
Even without Chipper Jones, sitting out following a Friday night collision with Bautista that injured Jones’ wrists and left quadriceps, the Braves had way too much offense for a struggling Pirates team that has lost 10 of 14 and fallen 9 1/2 games out of the NL Central lead.
Pirates starter Tony Armas (0-3) failed to win for the seventh start in a row, giving up five runs — four earned — in two-plus innings. Thorman’s fourth homer of the season, a three-run drive, followed Brian McCann’s walk and Jeff Francoeur’s single to make it 3-0 in the second. McCann added an RBI single during a two-run third aided by second baseman Freddy Sanchez’s error for dropping the relay throw on an apparent double play grounder.
Thorman drove in five runs, adding a two-run homer in the ninth against Jonah Bayliss. The two-homer game was the first of his career.
Francoeur, starting his 200th consecutive game for Atlanta, also singled in a run during the seventh. And the normally reliable Pirates’ defense also had an off night, committing three errors — including the first this season by third baseman Bautista, who has started all 35 games.
Reaching the seventh was an accomplishment for James, who didn’t last past six innings in his first seven starts this season and was coming off a season-low 3 2-3 innings against San Diego.
James had won only one of his previous five starts, and that was an unimpressive 9-7 decision against Colorado on April 27. Still, this wasn’t the best start of his career — he limited the Mets to one hit over eight innings last season in a 5-0 decision on Sept. 4.
Notes: The Pirates are 5-10 at home. ... The five-game winning streak is Atlanta’s longest this season. The Braves lead the Mets by 1 1/2 games in the NL East. ... Braves SS Edgar Renteria ran his hitting streak to 18 games with a single in the third. ... James, 11-4 last season, faced the Pirates for the first time. ... James allowed three runs over fewer over at least six innings only once in his first seven starts. ... The Pirates have lost six of eight. ... Pirates 1B Adam LaRoche, formerly with the Braves, grounded into a double play for the second time in as many at-bats in two games, as a pinch-hitter in the eighth.