ATLANTA - James McDonald struck out a career-high nine in 5 1-3 scoreless innings and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Atlanta Braves 3-1 on Monday night to keep pace in the tight NL Central race.
The Pirates are tied with St. Louis for first place in the division, a half-game ahead of Milwaukee, which was off.
McDonald (6-4) had the most strikeouts by a Pirates pitcher in almost two years. He gave up eight hits but did not walk a batter and ended each of the first five innings with strikeouts.
McDonald has not allowed a run in two straight wins. Joel Hanrahan pitched a perfect ninth for his 29th save in 30 chances.