Pirates 3, Diamondbacks 1

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PITTSBURGH (AP)—Oliver Perez has emerged as one of baseball’s best young pitchers, and Arizona second baseman Scott Hairston understands why.

Perez struck out nine in eight sharp innings and the Pittsburgh Pirates stopped a five-game losing streak by beating the Diamondbacks 3-1 Tuesday night.

“I saw some 97 mph pitches up there in the eighth inning, and usually pitchers who throw that hard drop down two or three (mph) later,” Hairston said. “That wasn’t the case for him, and I guess that’s why he’s so successful.”

Perez (9-6) entered the game leading the National League with an average of 11 strikeouts per nine innings, and fanned five over his last two innings. The 23-year-old lefty gave up five hits and walked two.

“This game was very important because we had lost five in a row,” said Perez, who has lost just two of his last 11 starts. “We needed this win.”

Pirates left fielder Jason Bay reached over the wall to take away a two-run homer from Alex Cintron in the first, and Perez faced few problems after that.

“He was setting guys up with breaking balls and finishing guys with a 96 or 97 fastball,” Arizona manager Al Pedrique said. “For a guy to be throwing that hard that late … the kid has a great arm.”

Pittsburgh manager Lloyd McClendon said Perez struggled a bit with his location early in the game but quickly righted himself.

“He didn’t really have his touch and feel early, and Spin (pitching coach Spin Williams) mentioned something to him in the dugout and he settled down a little bit,” McClendon said. “Then he has some bite on his slider.

“He was pretty much dominant tonight. He was just what we needed.”

Jose Mesa pitched a perfect ninth for his 34th save in 39 chances.

Daryle Ward had three hits and drove in two runs for the Pirates. He entered the game hitting just .207 since returning from the disabled list Aug. 15.

Ward hit his 12th home run and an RBI double, and also singled. His solo homer off reliever Mike Koplove in the seventh made it 3-1.

“He threw me a changeup inside, and I knew it was going to move. It ended up over the plate where I can handle it,” said Ward. “That’s what my job is, to swing the stick and play good defense at first. I’m a pull hitter, and this is a ballpark that works well for me.”

Edgar Gonzalez (0-7) matched his longest start of the season by working six innings. He allowed seven hits and two runs.

“I’m working hard, and this start was better,” Gonzalez said. “When I’m on the mound right now, everything is better. But I want to pitch better every day.”

The Pirates took a 2-0 lead in the first. Jack Wilson walked and scored on Ward’s one-out double, and Rob Mackowiak hit the first of his two doubles.

But that might have only tied the game if Bay hadn’t made his play on Cintron’s drive in the top half.

“I was sitting in the dugout in the seventh thinking, ‘That might have been the ballgame for us.’ It was a big play,” McClendon said.

Arizona scored its only run in the third inning. After Andy Green singled and Gonzalez was hit by a pitch, Quinton McCracken advanced the runners with a sacrifice before Cintron singled.

The Pirates loaded the bases with one out in the fifth inning, but Gonzalez got Ty Wigginton to ground into a double play.

Notes

The Pirates have lost 14 of 21 home games against Arizona since the Diamondbacks began play in 1998 … Arizona has allowed a major league-high 83 unearned runs this season … Since June 28, only St. Louis has a better home record than Pittsburgh (20-7).

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