Braves look to do better at home vs. Pirates

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Braves swept a three-game series in Pittsburgh last week, holding the Pirates to two total runs.

The Braves, though, scored only nine runs themselves, and two of the victories were by one run.

The teams meet in a three-game series at Atlanta’s SunTrust Park beginning Friday night with the Braves trying to hold off Philadelphia in the National League East and the Pirates no longer in playoff contention.

Anibal Sanchez (6-5, 3.05 ERA) is the scheduled starter for the Braves in the series opener, with fellow right-hander Jameson Taillon (10-9, 3.49) set to get the starting assignment for the Pirates.

The Braves (74-59) saw their lead in the NL East cut to three games over the idle Phillies with a 5-4 loss to the Chicago Cubs in a makeup game Thursday night.

It was the Braves’ sixth loss in their past seven home games and left them just 35-30 at SunTrust Park compared to 39-29 away from Atlanta.

After losing two of three in St. Louis, the Pirates (65-69) are 12-20 since putting together an 11-game winning streak in July that kindled playoff hopes for the NL Central team.

Taillon, who is in his third major-league season, has never faced the Braves, and it has been two years since 13-year veteran Sanchez faced the Pirates, against whom he is 3-5 with a 3.62 ERA in eight career starts.

Sanchez, 34, lost his two most recent starts, but allowed just nine hits and four runs over 12 1/3 innings against the Colorado Rockies and Miami Marlins.

After allowing two hits over five scoreless innings at Miami on Saturday, Sanchez allowed a run in the sixth that put the Braves behind for good. He then left the game with two outs in the sixth with what the Braves termed right hamstring tightness.

“He didn’t pop it, didn’t pull it, it was more I think probably a dehydration thing,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said afterward.

Sanchez has had no lingering issues with the hamstring, although the injury did throw him off against the Marlins.

“In the last hitters, I started thinking I can push my body and that’s why I lost my command,” Sanchez said.

Taillon, 26, hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in a start since May 22 and has a 2.95 ERA in the 16 starts since then.

Taillon gave up one run in a victory over Milwaukee in his most recent outing on Saturday, going at least six innings for the sixth straight time and the eighth time in his past nine starts.

“I knew the team needed innings,” Taillon said after beating the Brewers. “I enjoy that feeling. When the team needs me, that kind of sparks some extra energy.”

Taillon has been especially tough on the road of late, going 6-2 with a 2.44 ERA in his last nine outings away from Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh is 9-18 against the NL East. Atlanta is 15-11 versus the NL Central.