By GEORGE HENRY
ATLANTA (AP) Andrew McCutchen homered, Francisco Liriano won his fourth straight start and the Pittsburgh Pirates moved closer to a playoff berth by beating the Atlanta Braves 1-0 Monday night.
The Pirates, winners in 10 of their last 12, have a five-game lead over Milwaukee with six games remaining for both teams. Any combination of two Pittsburgh wins or Brewers losses will guarantee the Pirates at least a spot in the NL wild-card game for the second straight year.
The Pirates still have hopes of winning the NL Central, but they began the night 2 1/2 games behind first-place St. Louis.
McCutchen, the 2013 NL MVP, hit his 24th homer in the sixth off starter Aaron Harang.
Pittsburgh has played three consecutive 1-0 games, winning the past two.
Liriano (7-10) allowed three hits, walked four and struck out seven in six innings. He extended his consecutive scoreless streak to 28 innings.
Liriano has a 0.69 ERA over his last five starts and 39 innings. He left the game when Jose Tabata pinch-hit in the seventh.
Mark Melancon faced four batters in the ninth to earn his 32nd save in 36 chances.
Atlanta lost its fourth straight to drop to 4-15 in September, worst in the majors. The Braves were eliminated from playoff contention Sunday.
The team’s struggles, combined with a bloated payroll and punchless offense, led to the firing of general managerFrank Wren earlier in the day.
Harang (11-12) allowed four hits and one run with two walks and seven strikeouts in seven innings.
Atlanta, dragged down again by a sluggish offense, fell to 8-53 when scoring two runs or less.
Pirates: RHP Gerrit Cole (10-5) has won three straight starts and seven of his last nine decisions.
Braves: LHP Alex Wood (11-10) helped beat the Pirates in his only start against them on Aug. 19, but did not receive a decision.
Pittsburgh’s starters have a streak of 23 consecutive scoreless innings. … Jared Hughes pitched the seventh and John Holdzkom the eighth to help the Pirates’ bullpen lower its ERA to 1.15 over its last 17 games.
Updated September 22, 2014
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