One night after observing the capabilities of the powerful Atlanta Braves lineup, Wandy Rodriguez shut them out.
Showing no ill-effects from a hamstring injury that caused him to miss a start, Rodriguez pitched seven scoreless innings of one-hit ball in the Pirates' 6-0 win against the Braves Friday night at PNC Park.
"Excellent," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Just excellent."
The Pirates (8-8) have won seven of their past 10 games.
The Braves hit four home runs Thursday night and have 29 this season. Entering the game, their .473 slugging percentage ranked second in the major leagues.
"We think we can beat anybody," Hurdle said. "We're not surprised when we win.
"When [Rodriguez has] got the breaking ball on top of that fastball command -- it was almost like A.J. [Burnett] the other night."
Against Rodriguez (2-0), the Braves swung early and kept him from having to battle. Rodriguez put only one man on base, allowing him to pitch from the windup for almost the entire game, and a double play erased the lone runner.
"That's as sharp as you can ever want to see a guy," Hurdle said.
The strained left hamstring that caused Rodriguez to leave his previous start April 8 and miss his scheduled turn in the rotation Sunday appeared not to bother him. Pitching on 10 days of rest, he displayed great control and his fastball reached 93 mph. Rodriguez said the hamstring felt good.
"A little bit scared of getting hurt again, but then I just moved on," said Rodriguez in Spanish, with bullpen catcher Heberto Andrade translating.
Rodriguez worked three perfect innings, and no Braves reached base until Jason Heyward singled with one out in the fourth. Justin Upton grounded into a double play to end the inning.
"He comes after guys, he just competes," Pedro Alvarez said. "Uses his defense, just throws a lot of strikes."
Rodriguez needed only 43 pitches, 29 strikes, in the first four innings. He finished seven innings with 82 pitches.
"I just threw all the pitches that I needed in different circumstances without fear," Rodriguez said. "Just throw with confidence."
The Pirates took advantage of Braves starter Tim Hudson, who left too many pitches in hitable locations. Hudson (2-1) allowed six runs on nine hits in four-plus innings. Travis Snider extended his hitting streak to seven games by going 2 for 4 with a double, and Neil Walker and Russell Martin each went 2 for 3.
Hudson allowed four extra-base hits in the second inning, leading to three Pirates runs. Justin Upton dived for Neil Walker's line drive to left but could not reach it, and Walker reached third on a stand-up triple.
"To be able to string some good at-bats, good innings, against a good pitcher, it's huge and it's key," Alvarez said. "It's a team that's got a lot of momentum going toward their way right now. For us to be able to beat a team like that, I think speaks a lot about this team."
Hudson's first pitch to Alvarez was a cutter over the plate, and Alvarez obliterated it over the seats in right field for his second home run in as many games.
"I'm starting to feel better, but it's not because of the balls that I hit," Alvarez said. "The last few days I've been feeling better."
Television feeds showed the ball ending up on the walkway behind the stands in right. Right fielder Jason Heyward never moved.
"That noise is special," Hurdle said. "You don't hear that noise off everybody's bat."
Martin and Jose Tabata each doubled to increase the Pirates' lead to 3-0.
Hudson couldn't record an out in the fifth inning before exiting. Two walks and a single loaded the bases with none out for Garrett Jones, who singled home two runs.
Anthony Varvaro replaced Hudson, but threw two wild pitches, the second of which allowed Andrew McCutchen to score from third.
Mark Melancon and Vin Mazzaro finished the victory. Rodriguez's seven innings helped preserve the bullpen for the weekend, when James McDonald and Jonathan Sanchez, who have both struggled in recent starts, take the mound against the potent Braves lineup.
Bill Brink: email@example.com and Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published April 20, 2013 4:00 AM