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Braves succumb in ninth

ATLANTA - Tommy Hanson can't pitch any better in his second start tonight for the Atlanta Braves at Baltimore than Javier Vazquez did Thursday against Pittsburgh.

The rookie just has to hope for more run support and a little better luck.

The Braves bailed Hanson out last Sunday, rallying to beat Milwaukee 8-7. Atlanta could muster little offense behind Vazquez, losing 3-1 at Turner Field to complete a disappointing 4-5 homestand.

The Braves (29-30) swept an interleague series at home against Toronto a couple weeks ago. Now they have to hope for more success against the American League as they try to climb back over .500.

Vazquez struck out 12, walked none and allowed just two hits in eight innings against the Pirates. But he left in a tie game and Pittsburgh won it in the ninth on a two-run single by Andy LaRoche off reliever Rafael Soriano.

Hanson, brought to the majors with much fanfare after dominating Class AAA hitters with Gwinnett, gave up three home runs in his debut at Turner Field against Milwaukee. He'll have to do a better job of keeping the ball in the park at cozy Camden Yards against the Orioles.

"I'm excited about getting back out there," Hanson said.

After breezing through the first three innings against the Brewers, Hanson had trouble locating his pitches in the next three frames and paid for it.

"I think it was the fact that it was the first game more than anything else," Hanson said. "I had my adrenaline going and I missed with a few pitches.

"I'm just going to go out there with the same game plan (against the Orioles). I want to be just as aggressive."

Braves manager Bobby Cox certainly didn't lose any confidence in Hanson despite the tall right-hander's mixed results against Milwaukee.

"He's going to be a real good one," Cox said. "He's got John Smoltz-like stuff."

Atlanta needs to get a good performance from Hanson at Baltimore, but it has been the offense that has been letting the team down. The Braves hit just .224 during the homestand.

"This was not a good game to lose on getaway day, especially after the way Vazquez pitched," said Cox, who was ejected for the first time this season in the ninth inning for arguing a call at first base. "He was just outstanding, as he has been all season long.

"I don't see how we're losing these games, but we are. We're not getting any runs."

The Braves had just four hits against the Pirates, two by Jeff Francoeur. The former Parkview superstar drove in Atlanta's run in the fourth inning.

Vazquez made just one mistake and it resulted in a tie game as Delwyn Young hit his first home run of the season in the fifth inning.