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Benson wins consecutive starts for Pirates

7/1/2002

DETROIT (AP) -- Kris Benson might not be all the way back. For
now, close enough will do just fine.

Benson allowed one run and six hits in 6 2/3 innings Sunday,
leading the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 6-2 win over the Detroit Tigers
and giving him back-to-back wins for the first time since September
of 2000.

"I don't think he has his best stuff yet -- he's not
overpowering by any means,'' said Pittsburgh manager Lloyd
McClendon. "But he works ahead in the count and keeps the ball
down. It is great to have him back in the rotation and able to
solidify things. Hopefully, he can continue to improve.''

Benson (2-4), who missed the entire 2001 season after elbow
surgery, walked one and struck out one.

"This is definitely better than losing two in a row, which I'd
been doing all year,'' Benson said. "I've finally got some
momentum and I can give myself some confidence for the second half
of the year. I feel like things are finally starting to come
together for me.''

Pittsburgh finished interleague play by taking two of three from
Detroit after going 1-8 in their previous games against the
American League.

"Yesterday's loss was tough -- I had a pretty sleepless night,''
McClendon said. "But the win today takes the pain away.''

The Tigers have lost nine of their last 11.

After Scott Sauerbeck allowed singles to Dmitri Young and Robert
Fick to start the ninth, Mike Williams got the final three outs for
his 23rd save.

Rookie Mike Maroth (1-2) allowed three runs -- two earned -- on
six hits and a walk in 6 1/3 innings.

Pittsburgh got on the board in the second. Mackowiak singled
with two outs, then stole second. Pokey Reese followed with a
single to left, and Mackowiak easily beat George Lombard's throw.

In the bottom of the inning, Brandon Inge hit a two-out single
and Wendall Magee followed with a blooper that fell between center
fielder Chad Hermansen and second baseman Pokey Reese. Inge stopped
at third, then broke for the plate when he realized that third-base
coach Juan Samuel was waving him home. Jack Wilson's relay easily
beat Inge, ending the inning.

"The ball was blooped over the infield, so I was just trying to
get to third,'' Inge said. "Sammy didn't make a signal either way,
so I slowed up, and then he gave me a quick wave, like he was
trying to sneak one in on them.''

The Pirates made it 2-0 in the sixth when Wilson reached on
third baseman Chris Truby's error, took second on a wild pitch and
scored on Brian Giles' single.

The Tigers ran themselves out of another scoring chance in their
half of the sixth. Lombard tripled with one out, but Ramon Santiago
grounded out to first and Lombard held at third. Damion Easley
walked, then was caught off first by Benson's pickoff throw.
Lombard tried to score during the rundown, but Reese threw to the
plate to retire him.

Tigers manager Luis Pujols was surprised that the veteran Easley
would get picked off, but felt the mistake came on Santiago's
grounder.

"Lombard has to go on that play -- the sign was to go on
anything hit to first, second or short,'' he said. "I know the
ball was hit to a corner when you want it to go up the middle, but
he has to go.''

Pittsburgh added two runs in the seventh. Mackowiak led off with
a double and Reese sacrificed. Oscar Henriquez replaced Maroth, and
Hermansen greeted him with an RBI double to left.

Hermansen stole third and scored on Jason Kendall's soft liner
over the drawn-in infield.

Detroit finally got on the board in the seventh when Fick hit a
two-out double and scored on Inge's single. Brian Boehringer
relieved Benson and got the final out of the inning.

Detroit pulled within two on Damion Easley's eighth-inning RBI
single, but the Pirates got two in the ninth on an RBI single by
Jack Wilson, who got thrown out at second trying to stretch the hit
into a double, and Giles' 19th homer.

Game notes
Pittsburgh had only three extra-base hits in the series,
all doubles. ... Henriquez's seventh-inning relief appearance was
his first major league outing since he was with Florida in 1998. He
allowed hits to all three batters he faced, but did pick off
Kendall. ... Detroit went 4-11 at home in June.