NL East Wrap: McDonald, Pirates slow down Braves

NL East Wrap: McDonald, Pirates slow down Braves
July 26, 2011, 4:58 am
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Pirates 3, Braves 1

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ATLANTA -- James McDonald and the Pittsburgh Pirates keep finding ways to win.

McDonald struck out a career-high nine in 5 1-3 scoreless innings and the Pirates beat the Atlanta Braves 3-1 on Monday night to keep pace in the tight NL Central race.

The Pirates are tied with St. Louis for first place in the division, a half-game ahead of Milwaukee, which was off.

The Braves outhit the Pirates 9-5, but Pittsburgh took advantage of its few scoring chances.

Braves starter Tim Hudson issued three walks in seven innings -- and each of the three scored.

"Championship teams, they make good outs," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. "They find a way to score without hits. We were able to find a way of doing that tonight, and we have to."

McDonald (6-4) had the most strikeouts by a Pirates pitcher in almost two years. He gave up eight hits but did not walk a batter and ended each of the first five innings with strikeouts.

"It's really important," McDonald said of avoiding walks. "It's been an issue for me this year. I told myself in the second half I was going to keep my walks down."

McDonald has not allowed a run in two straight wins. He said he is focused on being more aggressive on the mound and staying ahead in the count.

"Being ahead is a big key for me," McDonald said.

"They're a good-hitting team. They're going to get their hits. The thing is to keep the damage to a minimum."

Joel Hanrahan pitched a perfect ninth for his 29th save in 30 chances.
Mets 4, Reds 2

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CINCINNATI -- Jason Isringhausen showed he's still got something left in the tank -- enough to beat a Reds team that let him go, anyway.

Isringhausen struck out Brandon Phillips with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning Monday night, closing out the New York Mets' 4-2 win and denying Cincinnati an elusive third straight win.

A familiar figure kept them from it.

The Reds signed the 38-year-old reliever to a minor league deal last season, giving him a chance to continue his comeback from reconstructive elbow surgery in 2009. After seven games he came down with a sore elbow, and that was it.

"They just said I didn't have enough in the tank," Isringhausen said.

The Mets traded closer Francisco Rodriguez to Milwaukee right after the All-Star game, opening the way for Isringhausen and others to finish off games. He used his guile to deny the Reds a third straight win.

Cincinnati hasn't won three straight since a sweep of the Dodgers from June 13-15. The Reds sure had their chance in the ninth.

Third baseman David Wright's error and Miguel Cairo's single put two aboard with two outs. Isringhausen then pitched carefully to Jay Bruce, walking him to load the bases.

"I wasn't going to give in to him," Isringhausen said. "I've seen too many highlights of him hitting home runs for walk-offs."

Isringhausen then fanned Phillips on four pitches to get his third save in six chances and end the drama.

"I believe in the old man," starter R.A. Dickey said. "He's got a lot of tricks up his sleeve."

Manager Terry Collins plans to use Isringhausen in the closer's role "for the foreseeable future."

"He just grinds it out and makes his pitches," Collins said. "He's an old pro, no doubt about it."

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