Pittsburgh (0-5) at Cincinnati (3-1)

Light Snow Currently: Cincinnati, OH
Temp: 26° F
  • Game info: 1:15 pm EDT Sat Apr 8, 2006
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Left-hander Oliver Perez is a strong candidate to emerge as the Pittsburgh Pirates’ stopper. He has quite a streak to stop on Saturday.

Perez and the Pirates (0-5) try to stop their worst start in 32 years in the third of a four-game set against the Cincinnati Reds.

With Friday night’s 7-6 loss, the Pirates are 0-5 for the first time since they opened the 1974 season with six straight defeats.

The franchise record for futility at the start of the season is held by the 1955 club, which opened 0-8.

“Nobody’s going to help do it for us, but I certainly think we should realize the fact that we’ve played five ballgames and been in all five and had chances to win them,” new manager Jim Tracy said.

Perez pitched well in Pittsburgh’s 5-2 opening day loss at Milwaukee on Monday, striking out nine and giving up just one run in 5 1-3 innings. Tracy removed him from the game after just 95 pitches to preserve his starter and ensure he wouldn’t get a loss.

“He got stronger as the game went on,” Tracy said. “He was throwing quality pitches as he got further into the game.”

Perez has won all five of his decisions against Cincinnati since the start of the 2004 season, posting a 3.22 ERA with 67 strikeouts in 50 1-3 innings.

The Pirates have hit seven home runs in the last four games, but otherwise their offense—which includes former Reds Sean Casey and Joe Randa—has yet to impress. Pittsburgh has grounded into eight double plays already and is batting just .206 with runners in scoring position.

Casey went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer Friday night against his former team. He has reached base safely in all five games this season.

The Reds (3-1) seem to be faring just fine without Casey and Randa. They have scored six runs or more in each of their four games and have nine homers already.

Playing at home in Great American Ballpark certainly doesn’t hurt. There have already been 17 home runs hit there this season, and it saw a major-league high 246 round-trippers in 2005.

Shortstop Felipe Lopez had his second career two-homer game Friday night as the Reds led 5-0 after the first three innings and held on for the win. Eric Milton lasted seven innings and yielded just two runs for Cincinnati.

“He had rhythm,” Lopez said. “You could tell he was confident, and when he’s like that, it trickles down to all of us.”

Aaron Harang looks to bounce back of a rough first start of the season. He lost to the Chicago Cubs on opening day, when he gave up nine runs—six of them earned—in five innings.

He is 5-2 with a 4.27 ERA in eight career starts against the Pirates.

The Reds are 3-1 to start the season for the third consecutive year. They have won the last four meetings with Pittsburgh at Great American Ballpark.

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Starting Pitchers

O. PĂ©rez WAS vs. A. Harang PHI
3-13 Record 16-11
6.55 ERA 3.76
102 K 216
68 BB 56
1.75 WHIP 1.27