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Pirates crush Braves, gain ground against Cardinals

Kevin C. Cox

The Pirates gained a half game on the idle Cardinals in the NL Central race with a 10-1 win over the Braves Thursday that was, if nothing else, a reminder that while the Pirates' season continues, the season is quickly drawing to a close for less successful teams.

In Cincinnati, the Reds were beating Milwaukee 5-3, eliminating the Brewers and setting the NL playoff field with the Nationals, Dodgers, Cardinals, Pirates and Giants. The Pirates' win further south brought an end to the Braves' home slate, as well, and as the Braves scored a meaningless run with a sacrifice fly in their ninth, the few fans at Turner Field did the Tomahawk Chop and wore rally caps, knowing they wouldn't get another chance to do so until April.

It was a brilliant performance for Edinson Volquez, who had a filthy curveball today but who was pretty much unhittable no matter what he threw, also getting strikeouts with his fastball and changeup. Volquez struck out the first four batters he faced as he beat his previous season high in strikeouts by three, whiffing 10 batters overall. It's possible -- although hopefully not likely -- that this was Volquez's last outing as a Pirate, and if so, there's nothing to do but rule his signing a success.

Travis Snider hit a solo homer to center in the first, and then the Pirates tacked on runs in the third and sixth before breaking the game open in the seventh and eighth. Starling Marte hit an opposite-field two-run double to key a three-run seventh, and in the eighth, Andrew McCutchen hit a bloop two-run single, then scored on Neil Walker's 22nd home run of the year. It was a virtuoso performance for the Pirates' offense, which had 16 hits and walked five times (three of them intentionally, but that's what happens when you constantly have runners on base). Harrison and Snider had three hits apiece. The Pirates now have 87 wins on the season, and they're now one game out of first place.