MLB Insiders: Atlanta Braves

Zach Duke

The Pirates open a three-game series in Atlanta Friday night. Lefty Zach Duke will be on the hill for the Bucs. The Braves will toss right-hander Derek Lowe.

Derek Lowe certainly hasn't been the most consistent pitcher for the Atlanta Braves, but two straight matchups with the Pittsburgh Pirates could go a long way in helping him get on track.

The Braves hope Lowe can beat the Pirates for the second time in six days and remain unbeaten against them for his career as these teams open a three-game series Friday night a Turner Field.

Lowe (6-4, 5.30 ERA) had a tough start to his second season with Atlanta (25-22), posting a 6.16 ERA through his first seven outings.

But the veteran right-hander has gone 2-1 with a 3.50 ERA in his last three starts, including a win over Pittsburgh (20-28) on Saturday night. Lowe gave up two runs and struck out five in five innings of a 4-2 victory, improving to 8-0 with 2.96 ERA in eight starts versus the Pirates.

Pirates left-hander Zachary Duke (3-4, 4.47), is making his second straight start against the Braves.

Duke allowed an unearned run and struck out five in seven innings in a 3-2, 10-inning win over the Braves on Sunday, improving to 2-3 with a 3.83 ERA in eight starts against them.

Duke is 1-0 with a 0.69 ERA in his last two outings overall.

It was easily overlooked while the Braves were taking two of three in Pittsburgh over the weekend, but first baseman Troy Glaus went 0-for-10 and shortstop Yunel Escobar finished 0-for-11.

In the first game at Florida on Tuesday, they each went 0-for-3.

Then things changed.

In Wednesday's game, Glaus was 1-for-3 with a walk and two RBI, and Escobar was 2-for-3 with a walk and an RBI. On Thursday, Glaus went 1-for-3 with two walks, and Escobar went 2-for-3 with two walks and an RBI.

Despite the rough series against the Pirates, Glaus is enjoying a strong month. He is hitting .326 (29-for-89) with four homers and 20 RBI in 24 games in May. He hit .194 (14-for-72) with two homers and nine RBI in 23 games in April.

For Escobar, however, the consecutive multi-hit games mark a breakthrough. Before Wednesday, he hadn't had more than one hit in a game since April 29, and his RBI on Wednesday was his first since April 16.

BRAVES 8, MARLINS 3: A rain-soaked Tim Hudson hung on to quash the Marlins in the fourth, his performance essentially saving the game before a rain delay knocked him out of the game. After that, the Braves got to the Marlins bullpen, scoring once in both the sixth and seventh innings and three times in the eighth. Martin Prado had three hits and two RBI.

NOTES, QUOTES

--C Brian McCann didn't play Thursday after straining his right quad running the bases in the fourth inning Wednesday. McCann stayed in Wednesday's game for three more innings and had hoped he could play Thursday, but the prospect of further damage made sitting out the smart thing to do. A more serious quad tear would need anywhere from six to eight weeks to heal. He was available to pinch-hit, but he wasn't needed.

--LF Eric Hinske batted cleanup Thursday, taking the spot where C Brian McCann usually hits. McCann was on the bench with a strained right quad. Hinske, who moved over to first base late in the game, went 0-for-5.

--CF Nate McLouth got only one hit last weekend in his return to PNC Park in Pittsburgh, going 1-for-11. He then went 0-for-6 in the series at Florida. Manager Bobby Cox started OF Melky Cabrera in center field Thursday against the Marlins. McLouth came in late in the game on defense.

--OF Melky Cabrera got the start in center field Thursday in place of CF Nate McLouth. McLouth is hitting .059 (1-for-17) on the road trip; Cabrera is hitting .471 (8-for-17) after going 2-for-5 with an RBI on Thursday.

--RHP Tommy Hanson got the 7-3 win against Marlins on Wednesday despite not having his best stuff or much control. He spent the night searching for the release point on his pitches. When he tried to pick at the corners, he flopped; when he went into attack mode, though, he was able to get outs.

BY THE NUMBERS: 17 -- Road games the Braves will be playing of their 23 contests from May 20 through June 13.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Did we just score enough runs to win this game?" -- 3B Chipper Jones to LF Eric Hinske, as they watched a seven-run ninth-inning rally against the Reds May 20, capped by INF Brooks Conrad's pinch-hit grand slam.

ROSTER REPORT

MEDICAL WATCH:

--C Brian McCann (strained right quad) left the May 26 game, and he didn't play May 27. He is day-to-day.

--OF Brent Clevlen (sprained right big toe) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 24.

--OF Matt Diaz (right thumb infection) went on the 15-day disabled list May 15. He had surgery May 19, and he won't return before late June.

--RHP Jair Jurrjens (strained left hamstring) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 30. He was expected to return to the rotation May 18 but suffered a setback May 10 while running before the game. An MRI showed bleeding in the lower left hamstring in a different area than the initial strain.

--INF Diory Hernandez (left shoulder surgery in February 2010) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 26, then was transferred to the 60-day DL on May 15. He is expected to be out until at least midseason.

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