The 28-year-old came very close to achieving the feat on Tuesday against the Atlanta Braves. He allowed one unearned run and seven hits over 6 1-3 innings as the Expos fell 1-0 and Downs lost his third straight start.
It was the first time he lasted more than five innings since July 27, 2000, when he was with the Cubs and went 4-3 with a 5.17 ERA in 18 starts.
“It’s a relief. It’s been a long time coming,” said Downs, who has spent most of the last two years in the minors and missed the previous two due to Tommy John surgery. “I know that I can do it. It’s just a matter of going out and doing it. … I kept the ball down and I had pretty good movement. I hit my spots.”
Downs went 8-3 with a 2.89 ERA at Triple-A Edmonton earlier this season but gave up a combined 10 earned runs and 15 hits over five innings in his previous two starts for Montreal this season.
After suffering their 13th shutout this year in an 11-0 rout by the Pirates on Friday, the Expos came back to win 4-0 Saturday for a 2-1 lead in series.
Jamey Carroll drove in two runs for the Expos while Tony Batista added an RBI single to extend his hitting streak to nine games. Batista, who earned his 1,000th career hit Friday, is batting .333 (12-for-36) with four doubles and six RBIs in that span.
The Pirates managed just four hits in the loss and are now 2-3 after their 10-game winning streak.
“I’m not going to let this one game deter what we are trying to accomplish,” said Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon. “We’ll come out tomorrow, play good baseball, win a game and be ready for the second half.”