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PIT@ATL: Braves walk off on Ross' single in the 10th

ATLANTA -- Life has been anything but easy for the Braves since the All-Star break. But instead of worrying about the number of key injuries that have plagued them, or the fatigue this week has produced, they seem capable of showing the resiliency that could carry them through this trying stretch.

Just when it looked like a couple of struggling offenses might wage a second straight battle into the early morning hours, David Ross delivered yet another contribution that showed why the Braves think they can survive without Brian McCann over the next few weeks.

Widely considered the game's top backup catcher, Ross victimized Chris Leroux with a walk-off single that gave the Braves a 2-1, 10-inning victory over the Pirates at Turner Field on Wednesday night and a chance to stage their second walk-off celebration of the day.

"It felt good," Ross said. "With B-Mac out, I don't want to be the weak link."

Standing as one of the team's leaders, Ross has never been considered the weak link, and few are still recognizing Dan Uggla in that manner. Having already matched a season-best three-hit performance, Uggla drew an intentional walk to load the bases just before Ross hit Leroux's first-pitch fastball to left field.

"You can do a lot of stuff with [Ross] offensively," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He can hit-and-run, and you can bunt with him. He can run you out of the ballpark. You feel pretty good that something's going to happen."

Ross' single easily scored former Pirate Nate McLouth and allowed the Braves to celebrate like they had approximately 20 hours earlier when they emerged victorious in a 19-inning game that ended at 1:50 a.m. ET. Fortunately, this game ended without the controversy created when Tuesday's game concluded with veteran umpire Jerry Meals' decision to rule Julio Lugo safe at the plate.

This game lasted three hours, 14 minutes, considerably shorter than the six-hour, 39-minute marathon that was staged by these teams less than 24 hours earlier. Some of the fatigue felt by the Braves has been building since they returned from Cincinnati around 3 a.m. ET on Monday, then waited through a two-hour rain delay before Monday's series opener.

"As good as it is to win these kinds of games, it's as demoralizing to lose them," McLouth said. "It's good to win two one-run, tightly contested ballgames against a good team."

Showing why they believe they can post their first winning season since 1992 and continue to bid for the National League Central crown, the Pirates have spent this series showing the strength of their pitching staff. At that same time, they have taken advantage of a Braves lineup that is without Chipper Jones, who is resting a sore right quad, plus McCann and Jordan Schafer, both of whom went on the disabled list Wednesday.

"For both teams, the starters are outstanding, and the bullpens are great, so it's going to be a pitching duel," Pirates outfielder Garrett Jones said. "It's been crazy the last few days. Definitely, both teams are pitching dominant. It's just up to us to execute and do what we need to do to score enough runs."

Jones' sixth-inning homer off Jair Jurrjens gave the Pirates a lead until the Braves came back in the bottom of the frame to tie the game with Ross' single off Pirates starter Paul Maholm. The Pirates had gone scoreless in each of their previous 22 innings dating back to the second inning of Tuesday's game.

Jurrjens ended up allowing just the one run in a seven-inning effort that matched his season-high of 116 pitches and also protected a Braves bullpen that was maximized Tuesday night. The cerebral 25-year-old hurler ended his evening by allowing Maholm's popped bunt attempt to fall to the ground. He then fired to second base to begin an inning-ending double play.

"For me, the play of the game was JJ on that bunt to end the seventh," Gonzalez said. "If he only gets one out there, then we have to bring in George [Sherrill] to get those left-handers, and it becomes a little different game. It was a heads-up play by him."

Jurrjens proved much more consistent than he was while allowing 10 earned runs in the 11 innings that encompassed his first two starts after the All-Star break.

"I was a little bit more aggressive today, throwing strikes and trying to make them hit the ball early," Jurrjens said. "I think Ross really called a good game and made me be aggressive."

The Braves, who have gone 5-for-32 with runners in scoring position over the past two games, squandered a handful of early scoring opportunities. But they took advantage of McLouth's 10th-inning leadoff single and the one-out single produced by the ever-steady Freddie Freeman.

This set the stage for Uggla, who has batted .353 (24-for-68) during his 18-game hitting streak and seen his batting average rise from .173 to .205. Instead of taking his chances against the suddenly red-hot second baseman, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle pitched to Ross and paid the price.

"I would have done the same thing they did, pitch around Uggs to get to me," Ross said. "Luckily, I put a pretty good swing on one and found the hole." Comments