Pirates snap four-game losing streak

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Oliver Perez found the perfect next step in
his comeback from early season problems -- the Cincinnati Reds.

The left-hander improved to 5-0 in his last seven starts against
Cincinnati, leading Pittsburgh to an 8-4 win Thursday night that
snapped the Pirates' four-game losing streak.

"It was just important that we got the win," Perez said.
"That was good after losing four in a row."

Daryle Ward and Matt Lawton hit home runs and Rob Mackowiak
drove in three runs as the Pirates won for the seventh time in
their last 10 games in Cincinnati and snapped the Reds' three-game
winning streak. Eight of Pittsburgh's nine starters had at least
one hit apiece by the sixth inning, including two by Perez.

Since missing two starts while working out some problems with
his arm and his mechanics, Perez (3-4) has posted back-to-back wins
for the first time this season.

"His stuff is still good," Pittsburgh manager Lloyd McClendon
said. "His fastball was good, his slider was excellent, and his
curve had a lot of bite. The only thing I saw was he didn't use his
changeup enough, but little by little, he's getting back to normal.
He's still building his stamina."

Perez allowed three hits and two runs with five walks and eight
strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings.

"I was feeling good," Perez said. "I was a little wild, and
109 pitches is too many."

Cincinnati manager Dave Miley thought his team made things easy
for Perez.

"We take a lot of strikes and then chase the bad ones," Miley
said. "I don't know. We take pitches early in the count and then
chase that slider."

Mackowiak gave Pittsburgh a 2-0 first-inning lead with a two-run
single off Cincinnati starter Elizardo Ramirez (0-3).

Felipe Lopez got a run back in the bottom of the inning with a
two-out home run, his seventh of the season and second first-inning
shot in two days. He drove in another run with a fifth-inning
sacrifice fly, and Joe Randa and Ryan Freel each had an RBI in the

Pittsburgh took a 5-1 lead in a span of three pitches in the
third. Tike Redman and Jason Bay hit doubles on back-to-back
pitches for the first run. Ward, batting behind Bay, hit Ramirez's
next pitch for a two-run homer, his ninth of the season.

The Pirates loaded the bases later in the inning on Jack
Wilson's double, Humberto Cota's intentional walk and Perez's bunt
single, which forced Ramirez out of the game. Reliever Randy
Keisler walked Matt Lawton to force in Wilson with the inning's
fourth run.

"I felt like I was wilder than normal," Ramirez said through
an interpreter. "The ball was moving all over the place. I
couldn't control it, and I couldn't find a way to fix it."

Ramirez lasted 2 2/3 innings, the shortest of his three starts.
He gave up eight hits and six runs with three walks and one

"The two starts before, he gave us a chance to win," Miley
said. "Tonight, he didn't seem to be as aggressive as he had been
the other times out. That's part of the learning experience."

The Pirates added a run on Mackowiak's bases-loaded single in
the sixth and another on Lawton's solo homer off the right-field
foul pole in the seventh.

Game notes
Lopez batted third for the first time in three seasons with
the Reds. He extended his hitting streak to eight games. ... Perez
has allowed at least one home run in eight of his nine starts this
season ... The Pirates have led in 16 of their last 17 games and
have recorded at least one extra-base hit in each of their first 45
games of the season ... Mackowiak went 3-for-4 to improve his
average in May to .436 (24-for-55) ... He was leading the major
leagues in hitting for the month going into the game ... Keisler's
4 1/3 innings pitched was the longest relief outing of his career.