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Braves bring momentum into opener with Pirates

Aug. 18, 2014 at 10:47 AM   |   Comments

That Atlanta Braves hope they have gotten themselves back on track following a big three-game sweep over one of the top teams in baseball.

The Pittsburgh Pirates would like to mimic that trend on Monday night as they look to avoid a sixth loss in a row in the opener of a three-game set with the Braves.

Atlanta took all three of its recent meetings with the Oakland Athletics, knocking the A's into a virtual tie atop the AL West. The sweep gave the Braves a victory in four of five following a 2-11 rut as they sit six games out of first place in the NL East and 1 1/2 games out of the league's second wild card spot.

"We know we've still got a lot of work to do," said Braves outfielder Justin Upton following Sunday's 4-3 win over Oakland. "But this is a good start. We played well this weekend. Hopefully we can carry it on the road with us."

Atlanta is 64-60 on the season, the same record that Pittsburgh now has following a winless five-game road trip. Like the Braves, the Pirates are closer in the wild card race than first place in their division as Pittsburgh is 5 1/2 contests behind the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers.

The Pirates lost three straight one-run games to the Washington Nationals over the weekend, including an 11-inning setback on Sunday. Pittsburgh scored three runs in the top of the ninth to go up by a run, but the Nats tied it with a run in the bottom of the frame and then won it on a walk-off sacrifice fly.

"You embrace it when it's good and you embrace it when it's hard," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. "We are going to show up and we are going to play. We will keep pushing."

Pittsburgh will try to keep pushing tonight behind Vance Worley, who is coming off his first setback since July 3.

The right-hander had a three-decision win streak snapped with an 8-4 setback to Detroit on Wednesday. Worley allowed five runs -- three earned -- over 5 1/3 innings of work, yielding a pair of homers.

"That's a good hitting ball club," Worley said of the Tigers.

Worley, 26, is 5-2 with a 2.51 earned run average in 11 games this season, all but one of those starts, and is 1-2 in his career versus the Braves with a 5.81 ERA over seven outings, including five starts.

Streaking right-hander Ervin Santana counters for Atlanta having not lost since July 9. He has won five decisions over six starts since, picking up his second straight victorious outing on Wednesday versus the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Santana held the Dodgers to a pair of runs and struck out nine over six innings, moving to 12-6 with a 3.66 ERA on the year.

The 31-year-old has never faced the Pirates.

Atlanta lost three of four in Pittsburgh last season, but then later swept a three-game set at home over the Pirates.

[SportsNetwork.com]

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