Pirates 5, Angels 2
PITTSBURGH (AP)—Kris Benson’s modest turnaround began when he quit trying to be the pitcher everyone thought he could be and concentrated on simply being the pitcher he is.
Redman began the game in a 4-for-28 slump, but hit two homers during a 3-for-4 night. He added a two-run drive in the eighth against reliever Kevin Gregg.
Benson (5-6) won in PNC Park for the first time since beating Arizona on May 10, 2003. He was 0-6 with a 6.30 ERA in 11 starts since, including 0-2 this season.
“We didn’t challenge Benson at all,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “We let him breeze through a couple of innings and get his feet on the ground, and he pitched a terrific game.”
Benson allowed five hits, struck out eight and walked none in eight innings in his first career start against Anaheim. It was his best start since holding the Mets to one run in seven innings on April 18, an 8-1 victory. He had lost five of six decisions, winning only once since April 30.
“Without a doubt, this is the best I’ve felt in a long time,” Benson said. “I’ve had some decent starts now, and it’s given me some confidence.”
Before Benson held the Cubs to two runs in six innings on June 5, he met with manager Lloyd McClendon and three coaches to review what he was doing wrong.
Pitching coach Spin Williams adjusted his mechanics and McClendon and hitting coach Gerald Perry convinced him go after hitters more aggressively. Benson has long been considered a potential 15- to 20-game winner, yet the former No. 1 draft pick has only a 40-47 record in 119 career starts.
“Some people thought it was a jump-his-rear end meeting, but it wasn’t,” McClendon said. “We just wanted to simplify things. We told him hitting in the major leagues is very difficult to do and his stuff is plenty good enough to get hitters out. He was very positive about it, he was open to suggestions and he’s taken it to the mound.”
Since then, Benson has allowed seven earned runs in 20 1-3 innings; maybe not Cy Young-type numbers, but an improvement over the 13 runs in 12 innings he gave up in his two starts before that.
“Before, I think I was tipping my pitches off by exposing the ball (during his windup),” Benson said. “Now they’re missing the pitches they used to hit hard.”
Jose Mesa pitched the ninth for his 16th save in as many chances and second in as many nights, tying Mike Williams’ 2000 and 2002 club record for consecutive saves in a season.
Benson outdueled Bartolo Colon (4-6), who’s winless in seven starts since beating Tampa Bay on May 8. Colon couldn’t hold a 2-1 lead in the seventh, allowing Redman’s third homer on his first pitch of the inning and, three batters later, Wilson’s go-ahead drive.
All three Pirates runs off Colon were homers, with Rob Mackowiak hitting a solo drive in the fourth to end the right-hander’s streak of 20 scoreless innings against Pittsburgh. Colon was 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in two starts against the Pirates while with the Indians.
Colon pitched better than he did while surrendering 13 runs and 18 hits in 10 1-3 innings in his previous two starts, but was troubled again by homers. He has allowed an AL-leading 21 in 82 innings.
“Sometimes I try to put my finger on it and say `God, what’s going on, why so many home runs?’ “ Colon said, speaking through interpreter Jose Mota. “I know I’m going to give up some more. … But I’ve got to keep going hard at the hitters.”
Garret Anderson accounted for most of the Angels’ offense as they dropped their ninth in 12 games and their fourth straight series.
Anderson doubled and scored on Darin Erstad’s single in the fifth after Benson retired the first 12 batters, then singled, moved to third when center fielder Redman misplayed the ball and scored on Jose Guillen’s single in the seventh.
The Pirates had lost nine in a row and 14 of 15 until winning the final two games of the three-game series. They had dropped four consecutive series sincetaking three of four from the Cubs on May 28-30.
The Pirates were 2-9 in Benson’s last 11 home starts. … Colon lost for only the fifth time in 18 career decisions in interleague play. … Wilson is 14-for-33 with six RBIs in eight games. … Erstad’s 164 career hits are the most in interleague play. … The Pirates won consecutive games at home foronly the third time this season. They’re 11-19 at home.