Atlanta (53-45) at Pittsburgh (47-50)

Haze Currently: Pittsburgh, PA
Temp: 5° F
  • Game info: 7:05 pm EDT Tue Jul 27, 2004
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Paul Byrd has not pitched poorly since returning from elbow ligament replacement surgery, despite winning just twice in six starts.

The veteran right-hander will try to end a two-start losing skid and reach three wins for the first time in two years when the Atlanta Braves face the Pittsburgh Pirates in the second game of their four-game series at PNC Park.

Byrd, who went 17-11 with a 3.90 ERA for Kansas City in 2002 before missing all of last season after having a pair of elbow surgeries, has allowed three earned runs or fewer in all of his starts since being activated from the disabled list on June 19.

He took the loss last Wednesday in Pittsburgh’s 4-3 win at Atlanta, allowing four runs and six hits in six innings.

“My fastball was great and my slider didn’t show up tonight. Nor did my changeup,” Byrd said. “The whole night seemed like it was a battle. It was just one of those games where I didn’t really have it.”

Byrd had a fielding error in the first inning that led to an unearned run.

“The bottom line is: I catch that ball in the first, we’re still playing,” Byrd said after the game. “That’s probably what’s most frustrating about it.”

The surging Braves are coming off a 4-2 win in the series opener Monday night. Jaret Wright and four Atlanta relievers shut down the Pirates in what might have been Kris Benson’s last start for Pittsburgh. It was Atlanta’s fourth straight win, 10th in 11 on the road, and 21st in 28 overall.

J.D. Drew ran his hitting streak to 22 games with a single during Atlanta’s go-ahead fourth inning against Benson, who is expected to be dealt by Saturday’s deadline for trading without waivers.

In beating the Pirates for the ninth time in their last 12 meetings, the Braves improved to a season-high eight games above .500.

Wright lasted only five innings on a drizzly, muggy night, but still checked Pittsburgh on two runs and five hits, including Jack Wilson’s solo home run. The Pirates managed only one hit, Craig Wilson’s single in the eighth, after Wright was lifted. Antonio Alfonseca, Kevin Gryboski, Chris Reitsma and John Smoltz followed with a scoreless inning each, with Smoltz pitching a perfect ninth for his 21st save in 23 opportunities.

The Pirates lost for just the second time in their last 16 home games, and seventh in 27 overall.

Pittsburgh will next turn to right-hander Kip Wells, who has just one win since May 16. Wells is just 1-2 with a 4.48 ERA in his last 11 starts. He allowed just one run and four hits over eight innings in the Pirates’ 2-1, 10-inning loss to the Braves on Thursday, retiring 11 of 12 batters during one stretch.

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Starting Pitchers

P. Byrd Bos vs. K. Wells LAA
8-7 Record 5-7
3.94 ERA 4.55
79 K 116
19 BB 66
1.24 WHIP 1.53