By Charles Odum
September 26, 2014
Pittsburgh Pirates' Neil Walker (18) runs past third base coach Nick Leyva (16) after hitting a home run in the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014, in Atlanta. Pittsburgh won 10-1. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
ATLANTA (AP) -- Perhaps the only bad news for the Pirates is they can't send Edinson Volquez back to the mound with the division title on the line in their final regular-season series.
Volquez threw seven scoreless innings, Travis Snider and Neil Walker hit homers and Pittsburgh moved within one game of the NL Central lead with a 10-1 win over the Atlanta Braves on Thursday night.
Pittsburgh, only one game behind first-place St. Louis in the division, will close its regular season with a three-game series at Cincinnati. The Pirates clinched a playoff spot on Tuesday night.
''We want to keep doing what we're doing, keep fighting,'' Volquez said.
The Pirates won three of four from the reeling Braves. St. Louis, which did not play Thursday night, closes its regular season with a weekend series at Arizona.
Volquez (13-7) set a season high with 10 strikeouts and gave up only four hits. He closed his regular season with 18 consecutive scoreless innings.
After posting an ugly combined 5.71 ERA with the Padres and Dodgers in 2013, Volquez finished his 2014 regular season with a 3.04 mark. He was at his best down the stretch, posting a 1.08 ERA in September.
Volquez allowed only five baserunners, including one walk.
''Anytime you get off the mound with that kind of efficiency and that kind of command, you know you're going to be in the ballgame,'' Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
Added Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez: ''His command today was about as good as I've seen him.''
Josh Harrison moved past Colorado's Justin Morneau (.317) for the lead in the NL batting race. Harrison had three hits, pushing his average to .319, and scored two runs.
Volquez added to his memorable night with an eighth-inning single that snapped his 0-for-45 drought since April 27. The Pirates had 16 hits, including three by Snider.
Starling Marte hit a two-run double in the seventh and Andrew McCutchen drove in two runs with a single in the eighth. Gaby Sanchez had a pinch-hit, run-scoring single in the sixth.
Snider has hit nine of his 13 homers on the road, including two in this series. His first-inning shot off David Hale (4-5) landed in the front row of the centerfield seats. Walker hit a two-run shot off Gus Schlosser in the eighth.
The Braves fell to 5-17 in September. There was a sarcastic cheer from fans when Ramiro Pena's fly ball to left field off Casey Sadler in the ninth drove in Jason Heyward as the Braves avoided their seventh shutout loss of the month.
The Braves' only hit through the first four innings was an infield single by Phil Gosselin in the fourth.
Atlanta didn't hit a ball out of the infield until the fifth. Following an infield single by Andrelton Simmons, Pena singled to left field, but Volquez pitched out of the jam.
Hale gave up two runs in 4 2/3 innings in his first start since June 28. He replaced Mike Minor, who was shut down for the remainder of the season on Tuesday with inflammation in his left shoulder.
Luis Avilan, Atlanta's second reliever, allowed four runs on four hits in 1 1/3 innings. Schlosser gave up four runs in the eighth.
The 10 runs were the most by the Pirates at Turner Field since the 2008 season opener.
Catcher Evan Gattis was 0-for-2 in his first start for the Braves since Sept. 7. He had been held out with strep throat and a kidney stone and was replaced by Christian Bethancourt in the seventh.
Harrison has a 13-game hitting streak, matching his career best. It is his third streak of 10 or more games this season.
Pirates: C Russell Martin started after leaving Wednesday night's game with tightness in his left hamstring.
Braves: 3B Chris Johnson was held out after leaving Wednesday night's game with a lower back strain. He said he was sore from adjustments to his back.
Pirates: RHP Vance Worley will face Reds RHP Mike Leake on Friday night.
Braves: The Braves close their season with a three-game series at Philadelphia. RHP Ervin Santana will try for his 15th win against Phillies RHP Jerome Williams on Friday night.