Omar Infante had three hits and Derek Lowe maintained his mastery of the Pirates as the Braves earned a breakout victory they badly needed by beating the Pirates 9-3.
The win enabled the second-place Braves to remain a half game behind Philadelphia, which downed Florida, 10-6.
The Phils took over the top spot in NL East on Tuesday night, when the Braves slipped from the lead for the first time since May 31.
In Wednesday’s game, the Braves opened leads of 3-0 in the first and 8-0 in the third while snapping a three-game losing skid.
Omar Infante had three hits, Derek Lowe beat Pittsburgh for the 10th straight time.
Pirates starter Zach Duke (7-13) retired only three of 11 batters, giving up six hits and walking two in one-plus inning. Alex Gonzalez’s two-run single finished off a three-run first, and Duke was lifted after Lowe doubled, Infante singled and Jason Heyward walked to start the second.
Lowe (12-12) is 10-0 in as many starts against Pittsburgh, the best such record by any major league pitcher. He cruised through six innings before being lifted in his first start since Aug. 29.
The right-hander gave up eight hits. Lowe has a 2.64 career ERA against the Pirates and is 3-0 against them this season.
Pittsburgh is 47-92 with 23 games remaining and is on pace to lose 107 games.
With both teams’ rosters bulked up, the final three innings resembled a spring training game. The Pirates used 22 players but still had 13 left on the bench, and Cox lifted five of his position players — including Infante. He went 3 for 5 to raise his average to .342, which would lead the NL if he had enough plate appearances.
The Pirates tied a club record by using eight pitchers in a nine-inning game, reaching the total for the fourth time and first since 2007.
NOTES: Atlanta had 14 hits and left 13 on base. ... Cox managed for the last time in Pittsburgh, which was eliminated in the 1991 and 1992 NL playoffs by Atlanta. The Pirates haven’t had a winning season since. ... The Pirates presented Cox with a $5,000 check for charity. He is retiring after this season. ... Cox went 125-93 vs. Pittsburgh. ... To honor Roberto Clemente Day, the Pirates wore the beltless-style knit uniforms, with gold caps, like those they first wore when Three Rivers Stadium opened in 1970. ... 2B Neil Walker singled in the first to extend his hitting streak to 15 games (25 for 65, .385), the longest by a Pirates rookie since Rennie Stennett’s 18-game streak in 1971. ... Pittsburgh hasn’t swept a three-game series from Atlanta since April 29-May 1, 1994. ... Pittsburgh’s Pedro Ciriaco had an RBI double in the ninth in his first major league at-bat. Alex Presley singled later in the inning for his first hit.