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The Pittsburgh Pirates and the Atlanta Braves kick-off a four-game series at Turner Field tonight in a key matchup between two of the top teams in the National League. The game is scheduled to start at 7:10 p.m. (ET) and it will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.
Pittsburgh comes into this series clinging to a share of the NL Central lead with St. Louis and Milwaukee after dropping two of three to the Cardinals over the weekend. The Pirates are now 52-47 overall. They are 26-25 at home this season and 26-22 on the road.
Hitting continues to be an issue for Pittsburgh as it is ranked 12th in the NL with a .246 team batting average. Making matters even worse, the Pirates are ranked 13th in scoring with a total of 382 runs for an average of 3.86 a game.
James McDonald is slated to be on mound tonight for the Pirates. He is 6-4 with a 4.15 ERA this season in 19 previous starts. His last time out he pitched 6.1 innings of scoreless ball to earn the decision against Cincinnati. McDonald is 1-0 against the Braves with a 1.06 ERA.
Atlanta finds itself a full six games behind Philadelphia in the NL East after dropping four of its last six games including a 4-3 loss to the Reds on Sunday as a 123 road favorite. The Braves are now 59-43 overall this season. They are 29-24 on the road and 30-19 at home.
This lineup has been slightly more productive than the Pirates this season; ranking 14th in the NL in hitting with a .239 team batting average but ranking eighth in scoring with an average of 4.12 runs per game.
Tim Hudson is scheduled to get the start for Atlanta. He was fairly solid in his last start against Colorado, giving up three earned runs on five hits in seven innings of work. Hudson is 9-6 with an ERA of 3.39 in 20 previous starts this year. He is 5-4 with a 2.75 ERA in his career against Pittsburgh.
Head-to-head this season, the Braves won both games played on the road to add to a 6-3 series edge in 2010. The total has stayed ‘under’ in five of the previous six meetings.
Stick with the Pirates in this one, as McDonald has his nasty curveball-fastball mix working to perfection to shut the Braves down.