Ross leads Braves' attack past rain, Bucs

Ross leads Braves' attack past rain, Bucs

ATLANTA -- David Ross wants Brian McCann to get better as soon as possible.

After Friday night, the Pittsburgh Pirates probably feel the same way -- anything to get Ross out of the lineup.

In the lineup as a precaution, while McCann recovers from a strained right quadriceps, Ross had three hits, including a three-run double that capped a four-run first inning, and Derek Lowe raised his record to 9-0 all-time against Pittsburgh, as the Braves toppled the Pirates, 7-3, on Friday at Turner Field, in a game twice delayed for a total of 2:31 minutes by rain.

"When I get a hit, it's huge because it gives Bobby more confidence in giving Mac days off, which he needs once in a while," said Ross, who had his first three-hit game of the season and is hitting .625 (5-for-8) with four RBIs in two games against Pittsburgh. "But make no mistake about it, we need him in the lineup. I try to play my role and give him a break when he needs it."

Martin Prado also had three hits and scored twice for Atlanta, which won for the 13th time in 17 games and the ninth time in its past 11 at home. Pittsburgh has dropped seven out of nine overall and six of eight on the road.

It was the third three-hit game in the past four for Prado, who is hitting .450 in that span (9-for-20), is leading the National League with 65 hits and is tied for first with Philadelphia's Ryan Howard with 21 multihit games

"Prado keeps smoking the ball," said Braves manager Bobby Cox. "He's swung it all year."

"He's obviously the best player on our team thus far," added Ross. "He was the only one hitting when nobody else was hitting and he's kept right on."

Lowe (7-4) celebrated his 300th career start by earning his fourth win in six May starts, allowing one run and four hits in seven innings. He's given up two runs or fewer in all four wins. Lowe even helped himself at the plate, doubling, drawing a walk and scoring twice.

"I've been trying to mix it up a lot more of late. It seems to be working," said Lowe, who faced four batters over the minimum and induced 12 ground-ball outs. "I'll try to not change anything and go out there next Wednesday and try and pitch another good game."

The only run Lowe allowed came in the fourth inning, when Neil Walker doubled, Andrew McCutchen followed with a single and Garrett Jones hit a sacrifice fly. They were the only back-to-back hits off Lowe.

"He's done an outstanding job of making his pitches and getting big ground balls," said Ross. "What was really nice tonight was how deep he went into the game. We'd been using our bullpen a lot lately, and Jonny Venters to come in, him and [Eric O'Flaherty], to give those back end guys a little rest."

Pittsburgh's other runs came off O'Flaherty, who gave up a pair of eighth-inning RBI doubles, to Walker, who had his second multihit game in four starts since being called up from Triple-A Indianapolis, and pinch-hitter Andy LaRoche. The runs snapped O'Flaherty's streak of seven consecutive appearances since May 16, without allowing an earned run.

Zach Duke (3-5) took the loss for Pittsburgh. Duke, who had allowed only one earned run and 13 hits in his previous two starts (covering 13 innings), including a one-run, seven-hit effort in seven innings against Atlanta on Sunday, surrendered seven earned runs and a season-high 12 hits in 5 1/3 innings.

After a one-hour, 21-minute rain delay, Atlanta touched him up four runs in the first inning.

Prado led off by smacking a single to right. After Jason Heyward walked, his first of four times on base Friday, and Chipper Jones flied out, Troy Glaus dribbled a single to right, scoring Prado. After a fielder's choice, Melky Cabrera's infield single loaded the bases. The hit extended Cabrera's hitting streak to seven games.

Ross, who came into the game hitting .400 lifetime against Duke -- and left hitting .500 against him -- then belted the first pitch for a double into the left-field corner.

Jones, who also has dominated Duke, hitting .500 career against him, added an RBI single in the second inning, scoring Lowe who had a leadoff double, and a two-run single in the sixth, again scoring Lowe, who reached via a walk, and Prado, who is now hitting .471 lifetime off Duke, to knock out the Pirates lefty.

"Chipper had three RBIs -- another good night for Chip," said Cox.

Venters pitched a scoreless ninth inning, striking out Jeff Clement and Bobby Crosby, after waiting out a one-hour, 10-minute rain delay.

It was a nice end to a long day -- actually a second consecutive long day, as Thursday night's finale against the Marlins was delayed for more than an hour by rain and then the team had to fly home.

"Coming in today, a bunch of us were dragging," said Ross. "The good thing is, when you have a good crowd like we did tonight -- they stuck around after that [first] delay. That gives us our energy. It was awesome to have a great crowd. They were into the game and really got us going."

They'll get it going again Saturday, this time possibly sans Ross, with McCann back in the lineup.

"We'll see if [McCann] can play tomorrow," said Cox. "I don't know if he can or not."

Don't ask the Pirates how they feel.

Jon Cooper is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.