Oliver Perez looks to extend his career-high winning streak to four starts and help the New York Mets match their longest run of the season when they host Barry Bonds and the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday night.
Perez (6-3, 2.54 ERA) has been one of the Mets’ biggest surprises this year, tying John Maine for the team lead in victories. Plagued by wildness and inconsistency throughout his eight-year career, the left-hander has posted a 1.17 ERA during his three straight wins.
Perez, who won four consecutive decisions from May 21-June 11, 2005 while with Pittsburgh, appears to be finally harnessing the ability that the Pirates believed would allow him to evolve into a dominant pitcher. Pittsburgh, though, eventually got tired of waiting for that to happen, and traded him to New York for reliever Roberto Hernandez and outfielder Xavier Nady on July 31.
“He’s getting better and better,” Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca said. “He has great command of his fastball on both sides of the plate. He’s making the pitches he has to make. He has turned into a monster.”
Perez, 25, shut down Atlanta at Turner Field on Wednesday, scattering four hits with five strikeouts and two walks in seven innings for a 3-0 victory.
“I’m not sure I expected everything he’s done so far,” Mets manager Willie Randolph told the team’s official Web site. “But it’s exciting to see what he’s become and exciting to think what he might become.”
The Mets (32-17), owners of the best record in the NL, hope Perez can keep his run intact and help them win a season-high fourth straight for the fourth time this season. New York opened 2007 with four wins and matched that streak twice this month.
The Mets defeated Florida 6-4 on Sunday to complete a three-game sweep, during which they outscored the Marlins 19-8.
“We haven’t been playing that well, and to come out here and sweep them on their home field … it’s tough to do,” said Mets closer Billy Wagner, who got his 12th save of the season and extended his franchise-record streak to 30 consecutive converted save opportunities.
“It was a big series. We were hoping to take two of three, but to get that sweep is just icing on the cake.”
Perez has won his last four home starts with a 1.91 ERA, but has not fared well against San Francisco in his career, going 0-4 with a 6.23 ERA in seven starts. Despite those struggles, he’s gotten the better of Bonds, holding him to one hit in nine at-bats with four strikeouts.
Bonds, who has not homered in his last five games at Shea Stadium since hitting two on Aug. 12, 2003, got his 746th homer Sunday to move within nine of Hank Aaron’s career record. The two-run shot, however, was not enough to prevent the Giants (24-25) from being swept in three games by the Rockies, who took the series finale 6-4 in 10 innings.
The Giants hope Tim Lincecum (2-0, 3.08) can help them avoid matching their season-high four-game slide from April 6-9 as he makes his first start against New York.
The right-hander has been dominant in three outings since a difficult debut May 6 in an 8-5 loss to Philadelphia. He allowed five runs and five hits - two homers - in that defeat, but responded by going 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 22 innings over the next three games.
The 22-year-old rookie had his longest start last Tuesday, allowing two runs and five hits in eight innings of a 4-2 win over Houston.
“Each outing, he’s done a better job of pitching,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy told the team’s official Web site. “He’s not just throwing out there.”
This is the final series of the season between San Francisco and New York. The Mets took two of three at AT&T Park from May 7-9.