Pittsburgh (69-86) at Philadelphia (81-74)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Philadelphia, PA
Temp: 90° F
  • Game info: 7:05 pm EDT Mon Sep 27, 2004
Preview | Box Score | Recap

While the Philadelphia Phillies may have fallen short of expectations this season, Eric Milton has certainly made a favorable impression.

Milton will try to match his career high in victories when the Phillies open a three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Citizens Bank Park. He went 15-7 in 2001.

The 29-year-old left-hander won 11 of 13 decisions before the All-Star break, but he is just 3-2 with a 4.66 ERA in 14 starts in the season’s second half. Milton won for the first time in over a month Wednesday, allowing one run and three hits over 6 1-3 innings in a 12-4 win over the Florida Marlins.

“You go 11-2 in the first half and (3-2) since,” Phillies manager Larry Bowa said. “I can’t explain why, but the numbers shake out in the end, and you can’t do much about it. You can’t let it get to you.”

Milton, who missed most of last season following knee surgery, was traded to the Phillies from the Minnesota Twins last winter. He will be a free agent after the World Series, but he has expressed interest in returning to the Phillies’ rotation.

“He’s had a very strenuous year as far as not pitching at all last year,” Bowa said. “He hasn’t missed any starts. I think he’s going to be better next year, and that’s a tribute to him. He works out hard and he’s a professional. He’s going to get a nice contract, hopefully it’s (in Philadelphia).”

Expected by many to win the NL East this season, the Phillies instead find themselves on the verge of elimination. With seven games remaining in the regular season, Philadelphia is fifth in the NL wild-card race—six games behind the Chicago Cubs.

Cory Lidle allowed one run and four hits over 7 1-3 innings Sunday, and Bobby Abreu had a two-run double to lead the Phillies to a 2-1 win over the Montreal Expos. Philadelphia has won six of seven.

The Pirates had lost five straight before topping the Cincinnati Reds 4-2 on Sunday. Josh Fogg won for the fourth time in six decisions, and Tike Redman had a pair of run-scoring singles to help the Pirates win their final home game of the season.

As they embark on a six-game road trip to end the season, the Pirates will hope for a strong start from Oliver Perez.

Although he has lost four of his past five starts, Perez pitched well in his most recent outing. The 23-year-old left-hander allowed one run and three hits over seven innings in a 1-0 loss to the Cubs.

“I was trying to do everything I could to win the game,” Perez said. “Every game you learn something, and this game I learned you can have too much emotion, to just relax.”

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Starting Pitchers

O. PĂ©rez Ari vs. E. Milton LAD
12-10 Record 14-6
2.98 ERA 4.75
239 K 161
81 BB 75
1.15 WHIP 1.35