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The Pirates welcomed the Atlanta Braves into town for a 3-game series, which would wrap up the next-to-last homestand of the 2010 season at PNC Park. This series also marked the final trip to Pittsburgh by celebrated manager Bobby Cox. The Braves are surely playoff bound, battling with the Philadelphia Phillies for the N.L. East crown.

Monday, September 6: One of the major elements of the Pirates’ 2010 season has been the issue of unpredictability. Typically, this hasn’t worked in the Buccos’ favor, but Monday’s game against the Braves proved otherwise. Brian Burres pitched a gem of a ballgame, giving up only 1 run on 5 hits in his 6 innings of work, before giving the ball to three different pitchers from the bullpen, including Joel Hanrahan, who would earn his 4th save of the season, securing a Pirates 3-1 victory on Monday afternoon at PNC Park.

In a well-played game on Labor Day afternoon, Neil Walker’s 6th inning 2-run homerun proved to be the difference in the contest. The Pirates’ 2nd baseman continues to be a huge story, while Jose Tabata also chipped in with an RBI for Pittsburgh.

Tuesday, September 7: For the second straight game, the Pirates got a solid performance from their starter, and the Pirates’ bats did enough to secure a comfortable victory against the Atlanta Braves. James McDonald pitched 7 innings of shutout baseball, allowing only 5 hits and issuing 3 walks. Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan pitched a hitless inning each, and Hanrahan struck out the side in the 9th inning, closing out the 5-0 victory for the Buccos.

The difference in the ballgame was the 7th inning. Pedro Alvarez got things started with an RBI-double, which was followed two batters later by Ronny Cedeno’s triple, scoring Alvarez and Ryan Doumit. Delwyn Young delivered the seemingly knockout blow, a 2-run blast to deep left. After shutting down the Pirates through 6 innings, Tim Hudson finally ran into trouble in the 7th, with 4 of the 5 runs being charged to him, stuttering his ERA at 2.41, and dropping his record to 15-7. The victory set up the possibility of a sweep at PNC Park for our battlin’ Buccos.

Wednesday, September 8: The Pirates never had a chance in this ballgame. By the time the Buccos even had an opportunity to bat in the bottom of the 1st inning, they were already trailing by 3 runs. Zach Duke lasted just 1 inning, giving up 4 runs on 6 hits and walking 2, once again inflating his ERA to 5.47. The Pirates were forced to use 8 pitchers, and the Braves’ bats, which were silent in the first two games of the series, exploded on Wednesday night, defeating the Pirates by a final score of 9-3.

On a bright note for Pittsburgh, Neil Walker extended his hitting streak to 15 games, while Pedro Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen added 2 and 3 hits respectively. Unfortunately for the Pirates, there weren’t any other positives to take away from this ballgame.

So the Pirates earned a victory in the series against the Atlanta Braves. They complete the homestand at .500, 3-3, and now hit the road for a very difficult trip to Cincinnati for a 3 game set against the N.L. Central leading Reds and then on to New York for a 4-game date against the Mets. With less than a month left in the season, it is all about the young guys and about next year for Pittsburgh, but it’s also about playing spoiler. In addition to the series against the Reds, they are also set to play a total of 6 more games against the St. Louis Cardinals, a team who is barely holding on to playoff hopes. The Pirates have a day off Thursday, which, after the final game against the Braves, is definitely needed to regain some pride, and try to put on a strong showing against the Reds at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. Good luck guys.

Current Record: 47-92

And…As Always…Let’s Go Bucs!