Coming off his best outing of the season, Oliver Perez hopes to continue snapping back into form as the Pittsburgh Pirates try to avoid suffering a three-game sweep to the San Francisco Giants at PNC Park.
Perez was expected to anchor the rotation after developing into one of the NL’s top young starters in 2004, going 12-10 with a 2.98 ERA with 239 strikeouts. However, he was awful in his first four outings, posting an 0-2 record with a 9.00 ERA and allowing six homers and 16 walks in 19 innings.
The 22-year-old left-hander took the advice of catcher Humberto Cota, mixing up his pitches more against the Houston Astros on Monday en route to his first win of the year. Perez pitched 7 2-3 strong innings, giving up four hits and striking out a season-high nine to lead the Pirates to a 2-0 win.
“He’s been in the big leagues almost three years and the hitters are starting to know him,” Cota said. “He’s doing the little things now, not just trying to overthrow the ball.”
Perez didn’t give up a hit until the sixth inning as the Pirates ended a four-game home losing streak.
“This game feels great for me,” said Perez. “That’s the game you are trying to throw to help the team. I was just trying to forget everything from the last four games and be focused on this game.”
The Giants will counter with Jason Schmidt, who is looking to get back on track against his former team after going 0-1 in his last three starts with a 4.82 ERA. The right-hander, who played for the Pirates from 1996-2001, is 4-1 with a 2.17 ERA in five career starts against Pittsburgh.
The Giants won their season-high fourth straight game Saturday with a 7-6 victory over the slumping Pirates.
Deivi Cruz hit a two-run homer for the Giants, who used seven relievers to make up for the loss of closer Armando Benitez (hamstring). Jim Brower got the final four outs for his first save, and second in two seasons.
Pittsburgh, which has managed a major league-low 65 runs, scored more than four for the first time in 12 games Saturday, but could not avoid its third loss in five games.