This was supposed to be Oliver Perez’s breakout year. It still might be.
The left-hander looks to continue recovering from a dismal start to the campaign when the Pittsburgh Pirates close out a four-game series with the NL Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
Perez, who won a career-high 12 games last season and finished tied for sixth in the NL with Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens with a 2.98 ERA, was expected to build on those impressive statistics this year. However, Perez got off to a miserable start, going 1-4 with an 8.03 ERA after seven outings.
He has since settled into a groove, going 5-1 in his last seven outings while allowing three earned runs or fewer in all but two of those starts. On Tuesday, Perez allowed three runs and five hits while battling his way through five innings in an 11-4 win over NL East-leading Washington.
“I would have liked to see his 100 pitches spread out over seven innings rather than five, and we just have to get him deeper into games,” manager Lloyd McClendon said of Perez, who improved to 3-1 with a 4.50 ERA in four starts this month.
Perez is tied for the team lead in wins with Dave Williams (6), and leads the club in strikeouts (79).
The Pirates ended a 12-game losing streak against the Cardinals with a victory in the series opener, but have reverted to form with consecutive losses to St. Louis, including Saturday’s 8-0 blanking.
St. Louis, an NL-best 47-27, has homered eight times in the last two games while outscoring the Pirates 16-1.
Pittsburgh has dropped 10 of 13 overall and is 4-12 in its last 16 road games.