Braves rotation is among the best in majors

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Julio Teheran allowed the Pirates to ease into a brutal weekend of pitching they face against the Atlanta Braves, and he's no slouch himself. From there it only got tougher.

The Pirates scratched four runs off of Teheran in a 6-4 loss Thursday before facing a trio of pitchers currently performing at their best. Tim Hudson, Paul Maholm and Kris Medlen had allowed eight earned runs in 571/3 innings entering the weekend, good for a 1.26 ERA.

"We're going to approach it how we've been in the past few games," Garrett Jones said. "Just being aggressive in the strike zone and taking our walks when we get them."


  • Game:

    Atlanta Braves vs. Pirates, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park.

  • TV, Radio:

    Root Sports, KDKA-FM (93.7).

  • Probables:

    LHP Paul Maholm (3-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. RHP James McDonald (1-2, 5.27).

  • Key matchup:

    Maholm vs. Clint Barmes, who is 15 for 34 with two homers in his career against Maholm.

  • Hidden stat:

    McDonald's average fastball velocity is 2 mph slower than it was in 2012.

The Braves pitching staff had a 1.92 ERA and allowed 2.07 runs per game entering Friday. Both categories led the major leagues.

The final three starters in the series have combined to walk 16 batters. When opposing pitchers are throwing strikes, Jones said, the need for an aggressive approach increases.

"A pitcher gets ahead, he's able to mess with you a little bit," Jones said. "Throw more off-speed, get you to chase and do all that stuff.

"If he's throwing strikes and we're aggressive early, he's going to have to change his game plan around."

While a wholesale change in approach isn't necessary against hot pitchers, Neil Walker said, slight adjustments are required.

"We're going to have to choke up the bat a little bit," Walker said. "We know we're going to have to not be going up there free swinging. We're going to have to battle our tails off, try to shoot some balls the other way."

Maholm, a Pirates pitcher for seven seasons, will start today. He has struck out 20 without allowing a run in 201/3 innings.

In 15 starts since Medlen, who is starting Sunday, joined the rotation in July, he has allowed 12 earned runs in 1022/3 innings for a 1.05 ERA.

"If they're out there pumping strikes, it's hard to score runs when you keep taking pitches and you get down in the count," Jones said. "When a pitcher's got good stuff, good strikeout stuff, it just makes it harder on the hitter to do some damage."

Snider streak

Travis Snider had a six-game hit streak going into Friday's game, in which he was 8 for 21. He extended it to seven with a double in the first. Manager Clint Hurdle said the combination of Snider being healthy and easing his way into the season as he became comfortable with his swing has helped.

"I think coming out of the chute, he wasn't where he is right now by any means," Hurdle said. "He had a few extra days to work early in the season."

Hurdle said he was comfortable with Snider hitting second, behind Starling Marte, and Walker fifth in the lineup.

"That's the way I felt we were best served. The on-base percentage plays. The fact that ... he can take advantage of the open hole when Marte gets on. If Marte gets on [Snider] might get another fastball. Never a bad spot to hit in front of Andrew McCutchen."

Marte sits

Marte did not start Friday after striking out five times Thursday. Jose Tabata led off and played left field. "Rough night [Thursday] night," Hurdle said. "This is the major leagues. We'll give him a blow and we'll get him back in there [Saturday]."

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