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PIT@ATL: Uggla lines a two-run double to center

ATLANTA -- It's not even May yet, but the Braves' 0-4 start seems oh so long ago.

The turnaround has been that dramatic.

Now as hot as any team in the Major Leagues, the Braves defeated the Pirates, 6-1, in the opener of a four-game series at Turner Field on Friday night and have won 13 of their past 16 games.

Tommy Hanson outdueled A.J. Burnett through six innings despite not having his best command, and the Braves broke open a close game in the seventh on a two-run double by Dan Uggla and two-run single by Chipper Jones.

"Everybody knows how important these games can be in September," said Uggla, who saw the Braves just miss the 2011 postseason because of a late-season skid. "Winning games now can pay dividends."

The Braves' run total was the most given up this season by the Pirates, who hadn't allowed or scored more than five runs in any of their first 18 games.

But the Braves, who lead the National League in runs scored, are doing much more than just excelling at the plate right now. Uggla and Jones also turned in highlight defensive plays, and Kris Medlen pitched three scoreless innings in relief of Hanson for his first career save as the team ERA dropped to 3.72.

"The biggest thing now is the starting pitching," Uggla said. "Any time we have the lead going into the sixth or seventh inning, we have a chance."

Hanson, who retired the final 13 batters he faced in a victory at Houston last Saturday, allowed six hits and a run to improve to 3-2 and lower his ERA to 3.00. He struck out five and walked three.

"Tommy didn't have his best stuff, but he got through it," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He pitched."

Alex Presley worked Hanson for a 12-pitch at-bat before striking out to lead off the game and the right-hander's pitch count reached 70 by the end of his fourth inning. But he left for a pinch-hitter in the sixth with a 2-1 lead having thrown 102 pitches.

"I felt good, not great," Hanson said. "I battled."

A key moment came in the fourth inning when Hanson got Rod Barajas to hit into a double play with the bases loaded, keeping the game tied at 1.

"We're still looking to get that big hit at a big time," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We need that one hit. A knockout punch. Rod was looking for the slider -- and he got it."

"I know when there are runners in scoring position, [Hanson] likes to go to off-speed pitches," Barajas said. "I was ready for it. I missed it again."

Burnett, making his second start for the Pirates after being acquired from the Yankees over the winter, allowed six hits and two runs to nearly match Hanson. He struck out eight and walked three.

But the Braves got to the Pirates' bullpen in the seventh inning as Tony Watson and Evan Meek were touched up for three hits and two walks.

Burnett didn't make his debut with the Pirates until last Saturday after breaking an orbital bone in a bunting drill at the start of Spring Training. But he allowed just three hits over seven scoreless innings in a victory over the Cardinals and was tough again against the Braves.

"He's always tough," Uggla said of Burnett. "He really battled us good. But we had an opportunity late the ballgame, and we took advantage of it."

A two-out single by Martin Prado after a leadoff walk to Tyler Pastornicky and a sacrifice bunt by Hanson gave the Braves a 1-0 lead in the third. Prado now has an RBI in six consecutive games.

But the Bucs tied it in the top of the fourth inning. Andrew McCutchen led off with a single, stole second and scored on a single by Garrett Jones. Hanson then loaded the bases on a pair of walks before getting out of the jam when Barajas hit into a double play.

Soon, the Braves were back ahead. Jason Heyward walked with two out in the fourth and stole his seventh base of the season. The swipe paid off as Pastornicky followed with an RBI single.

A catch by Pirates right fielder Jones on a sinking liner by Freddie Freeman kept the Braves from padding their lead in the fifth. But then it was the Braves' turn to flash the leather.

Second baseman Uggla laid out to snatch pinch-hitter Nate McLouth's pop in shallow center field in the seventh inning and third baseman Jones made a diving catch to rob McCutchen in the eighth.

Right now, the Braves are doing about everything right. Michael Bourn, who hit .407 on the just-concluded 5-2 road trip, had two more hits against the Pirates and has reached base on 22 of his past 41 plate appearances. Uggla is batting .345 with three homers and seven RBIs during a seven-game hitting streak.

"The road trip was great, and coming back and getting a win was huge," Hanson said. "We got the homestand off on the right foot and hopefully we can keep rolling."

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