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Updated: Thursday, July 29, 2004 6:29 PM EDT
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ATLANTA 3, PITTSBURGH 2
 

PITTSBURGH (Ticker) - Rafael Furcal atoned for two errors with a clutch hit in the latest version of road kill for the Atlanta Braves .

Furcal's RBI single capped a two-run ninth inning rally and lifted the Braves to a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates .

"Furcal got the big hit," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "I told him about the fifth inning (after Furcal made his second error), 'Don't worry about anything, you will get the game winner in the ninth.' Sure enough he does."

The win was the 12th for the Braves in their last 14 road games. They capped a 5-1 road trip by taking three of four in this series.

Atlanta is 8-0-2 in its last 10 series and increased its lead over the Philadelphia Phillies and Florida Marlins to 3 1/2 games in the National League East.

The Pirates took a 2-1 lead into the ninth inning and handed the ball to closer Jose Mesa , who had converted 29-of-30 save opportunities. But Mesa (2-1) was unable to overcome a rare error by shortstop Jack Wilson .

Johnny Estrada led off the inning with a single and Julio Franco followed with a hard grounder to short. Wilson backhanded the ball as he slid, but threw it past second baseman Jose Castillo , allowing pinch-runner Mark DeRosa to race to third. It was only the second error in 29 games for Wilson.

"I think the throw kind of surprised Castillo, kind of handcuffed him," Wilson said. "That's the way things go. It was just one of those bad luck things."

Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon elected to keep his middle infielders back and Eli Marrero hit a slow roller to Castillo, who threw the ball to catcher Jason Kendall as DeRosa slid home with the tying run.

"We certainly should have made some plays and we didn't make them in that ninth inning," Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said.

Nick Green attempted to sacrifice the runners on first and second, but Mesa fielded the bunt and got the force play at third. After Eddie Perez walked, Furcal blooped a single to left to score Marrero with the go-ahead run.

"When I make the errors, I think maybe there would be a situation I can do something good for the team," Furcal said.

Juan Cruz (3-0) pitched a hitless inning for the win and John Smoltz retired the side in order in the ninth for his 23rd save.

"If you let us find a way and give us a chance, we come up big," Smoltz said.

Rob Mackowiak drove in both runs for Pittsburgh with a sacrifice fly in the first inning and an RBI single in the third. Jack Wilson scored on the single after reaching on an error by Furcal.


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