Pirates' Perez overcomes struggles, shuts down Reds

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Losing to Oliver Perez was discouraging enough. To Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo, losing to a team as bad as the Pittsburgh Pirates was inexcusable -- and he didn't hesitate to say so.

Perez, on the verge of being sent to the minors with another bad start, limited Cincinnati to two runs over six innings and drove in two runs to lead the Pirates past the Reds 7-2 on Wednesday night.

"Yeah, I was having problems, and everybody knows it," said Perez, who hadn't pitched effectively since Opening Day. "Right now, I feel very happy."

Not the Reds. Again, they had little offense and lost their season-high fifth in a row and ninth in 13 games. They have been limited to two runs or fewer in seven of those 13 games.

Arroyo gave up six hits in the first two innings as the Pirates opened a 4-1 lead and the Reds never got back into the game, stranding 12 runners.

That he couldn't beat Pittsburgh -- one of the majors' three worst teams -- clearly upset Arroyo, who gave the Pirates some bulletin board material for the next time he faces them.

"I didn't have the greatest stuff coming out of the bullpen, but it's still no excuse, man," Arroyo said. "I mean, to get off to a start like that against a team like this, especially after we hadn't won for four days in a row, it's [bad]. This can't happen, period."

Arroyo said he wasn't uncomfortable facing his former team. He broke into the majors with Pittsburgh in 2000 and spent three seasons with them.

"If I can't stand on the mound and feel comfortable against that lineup, then something's wrong with me," he said.

Perez (2-5), unable to do much while allowing 32 earned runs in six consecutive bad starts, did it all in winning for the first time since April 18. He shook off a rough start in which four of the Reds' first five batters reached base to last six innings for only the second time this season.

Perez helped himself with a two-run single in the second inning against Arroyo (5-2) and then stole second by getting such a big jump that he reached second about the time that Arroyo's pitch reached the plate.

Perez clapped his hands in celebration after getting his hit and again after pulling off the steal, the first by a Pirates pitcher since his steal against the Reds on Sept. 18.

And no wonder -- Perez understood he was close to being sent to the minors for the first time since 2003 after previously struggling with his delivery and control.

"When his delivery got away from him, he was able to get it back," manager Jim Tracy said. "In some situations, his delivery started to waver and he got it back. Before, when his delivery got away from him, he was never able to get it back."

The Pirates skipped over Perez in their rotation after they were rained out against Arizona last Thursday, allowing Perez to have three extra throwing sessions with their coaching staff. Perez had as many walks (five) as he did strikeouts but, unlike recent starts, got important outs when necessary.

"The first inning was the key for me," Perez said. "When I was struggling, somebody would get on base and I would think too much. Tonight, I was able to throw the ball in the spots I wanted to."

Perez gave up an RBI single to Ken Griffey Jr. in the fifth but again pitched out of a potential big inning by getting Austin Kearns to ground into a double play and Edwin Encarnacion to line out with runners on first and third.

"We were always looking for that one key hit with runners in scoring position and couldn't get it," manager Jerry Narron said.

The left-hander's control wasn't what the Pirates would have liked -- he threw only 64 of 112 pitches for strikes -- but he was far more effective than he was while allowing 15 runs in his previous three starts.

Nate McLouth hit a solo homer, his second, in the first before Arroyo gave up four consecutive singles to start the second, with Perez grounding a single into right field with the bases loaded. Freddy Sanchez added a run-scoring grounder that inning and had a two-run double in the eighth off Rick White for his third hit.

Game notes
The Pirates have won consecutive games for the first time since April 28-29 and only the third time this season. ... Arroyo was 6-4 while pitching in Pittsburgh with the Pirates, including a 2-1 record in Three Rivers Stadium. ... Perez didn't allow a homer for the first time this season. ... Arroyo had pitched 10 consecutive scoreless innings until McLouth homered. ... The
Pirates are assured of winning a series for only the second time in 13 series. They took two of three from the Phillies on April 28-30.