Chacon wins Pirates debut, beats Braves

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Joe Randa has played many roles in his career. Being a bench player on one of the worst teams in the majors hasn't been one of them until now.

Shawn Chacon limited Atlanta to one run in five innings to win his Pittsburgh debut, pitching the Pirates to a 3-2 victory Thursday and preventing a sweep by the Braves.

Randa, making a spot start, drove in two of the three runs against Braves starter Tim Hudson with a double in the first inning and a single in the sixth. Randa starts an average of about once every four days but is 16-for-36 (.444) in his last nine starts.

"Yeah, it's strange," said Randa, who signed a $4 million contract to be Pittsburgh's everyday third baseman. "I've tried not to hang my head and feel sorry for myself. I took it as a challenge, and it's gratifying to have some success."

Randa lost his starting job to NL batting leader Freddy Sanchez
early in the season. After sitting out more than a month with a foot injury, the 36-year-old Randa has accepted the role of part-time player following 10 years as a starter.

"It's easier coming now in this part of my career because I know not to put a lot of pressure on myself. When you're making spot starts or pinch-hitting, you have to let it happen," he said.

Chacon (1-0), a 19-1 loser to Cleveland in his last start for the Yankees on July 4, felt the same way in his first start for his new team. He gave up Andruw Jones' RBI double in the first but allowed only one more hit before being lifted after throwing 79 pitches on a 90-degree day.

The right-hander was traded to the Pirates on Monday for outfielder Craig Wilson after spending more than a month in the bullpen.

"Obviously, it's a new opportunity for me," Chacon said. "But any time you're in the big leagues, whether it's in New York or it's here, whether there are 50,000 in the stands or 20,000, you want to take advantage of it and establish yourself."

Hudson (8-10) lost his sixth in eight decisions for the Braves, who were denied a three-game sweep that would have been their first against the Pirates since June 1-3, 2001, in Pittsburgh.

The Braves had won two in a row after dropping five of six during their most recent homestand, including a three-game series sweep by the Mets.

John Grabow followed Chacon with a scoreless sixth and seventh, but Jones drove in his second run of the game with another double in the eighth, against Matt Capps. Marcus Giles had doubled to start the inning. Damaso Marte and Salomon Torres each retired a batter to strand Jones on second. Earlier, the Braves had twice ended innings with runners on second and third.

"We had our chances and didn't get the big hit, it's as simple as that," manager Bobby Cox said.

Jeff Francoeur popped out with runners on first and second to end the first and then popped up again to leave Jones on second in the eighth.

"We didn't give him [Hudson] any run support," Francoeur said. "It's a tough one to lose. The eighth inning, I had a great pitch to hit -- an 87-mph ball right down the middle of the plate -- you couldn't ask for more. I'm thinking way too much up there, and it affected me, and it wasn't a good game."

Mike Gonzalez pitched a perfect ninth for his 19th consecutive save conversion, breaking the Pirates' single-season record of 18 in a row by Jose Mesa in 2004. Gonzalez has converted 23 save opportunities in a row since Aug. 16, 2004, the longest such streak in the majors. Gonzalez became the Pirates' closer this season.

The Pirates had scored four runs combined in the first two games of the series before jumping on Hudson for two runs in the first as Chris Duffy singled and stole second and third ahead of Jason Bay's
RBI single and Randa's double. Hudson didn't allow another run until Sanchez singled, Bay walked and Randa singled in the sixth.

Chacon walked four and struck out three.

Chacon was 0-3 in six games in his career against the Braves and 0-3 in four games in PNC Park before winning as a starter for the first time since beating Texas 6-1 on May 6.

Game notes
Chacon was 5-3 with a 7.00 ERA for the Yankees. ... Shortstop Jack Wilson didn't start for the Pirates because of a sore knee and calf but singled as a pinch-hitter in the seventh. ... Braves first baseman Adam LaRoche sat out with a strained right hamstring that occurred while running the bases in the Braves' 3-2 victory Wednesday night. He could return to the lineup this weekend in Cincinnati. ... Grabow made his 12th consecutive scoreless relief appearance, a span of 14 1/3 innings. ... The Pirates have won six of eight.