Phillies 5, Pirates 1

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PITTSBURGH (AP)—The Pittsburgh Pirates don’t seem to have any idea where pitcher Oliver Perez’s career is going, much like Perez doesn’t seem to know where his pitches are heading.

Pat Burrell drove in two runs with a home run and a popfly double to support Gavin Floyd, and the Philadelphia Phillies avoided a three-game weekend sweep by beating the Pirates and the erratic Perez 5-1 Sunday.

Floyd (2-2) gave up one run and five hits over 6 2-3 innings, taking a shutout into the sixth before Jack Wilson hit his fifth homer. Floyd walked five and was consistently behind in the count, but was helped out by two double plays.

“He was wild enough to be successful,” Pirates manager Jim Tracy said. “There were any number of pitches in the hitter’s zone.”

No doubt part of Tracy’s frustration came from the Pirates’ 7-19 record in April, which includes losing streaks of six and seven games. Part of their problem has been Perez’s inconsistency—the left-hander struggled again Sunday by giving up four runs and six hits in 3 2-3 innings, raising his ERA to 7.53.

“It was not good at all,” Tracy said. “There was no command at all.”

Perez was lifted after the Phillies loaded the bases in the fourth on two walks and a single. With Bobby Abreu at the plate, Perez threw a pitch so high that it sailed over catcher Humberto Cota’s glove and off the screen behind the plate. After Abreu walked, Ryan Vogelsong struck out Burrell with the bases loaded.

“We saw balls thrown all over the place, bounce in the dirt, thrown to the backstop,” Tracy said.

Perez looked to be emerging as one of the majors’ top power pitchers by striking out 239 while going 12-10 with a 2.98 ERA in 2004, but he is 8-9 with a 6.22 ERA over the last two seasons.

“I was feeling good out there, but I was going too fast,” Perez said. “I have to be more consistent. I didn’t throw good, and I didn’t like it, but it happened and now I have to be prepared for my next game.”

Might Perez be running out of games to pitch in Pittsburgh?

The Pirates haven’t suggested they might send Perez back to the minors to work out his struggles, but Tracy may be running out of patience. The Pirates have spent extensive time with Perez over the last two seasons to smooth out his delivery, maintain his velocity and become less herky jerky and erratic.

“There are things we are working on with him,” Tracy said. “But when you give someone information, you have to do something about it.”

Perez has given up at least three runs in all but one of his six starts, yielding 23 runs in his last five starts.

Perez (1-4) started successive innings by giving up home runs, Burrell’s seventh of the season starting the second and Jimmy Rollins’ second leading off a three-run third. Aaron Rowand followed Rollins’ homer with a single, and Bobby Abreu drew one of the five walks by Perez ahead of Burrell’s RBI double. Ryan Howard made it 4-0 with a sacrifice fly.

Floyd’s wildness got him into trouble, too. He walked five, but he stranded eight runners over the first six innings.

“It was definitely a step forward,” said Floyd, who failed to pitch out of the fourth in two of his previous four starts. “I really focused on paying attention to the catcher’s mitt and being fluid, throwing it nice and easy, and I tried to hit my spots.”

Floyd kept the Pirates from getting back into the game when, with the Phillies up 4-0, he got Jeromy Burnitz to ground out with the bases loaded in the fifth.

“He wanted to throw a fastball in on him, he did and Burnitz hooked it foul,” catcher Sal Fasano said. “To me, that really showed a test of his manhood—it’s like, `Here it is, I’m going to challenge you.’ I think that helped him get over the hump. To me, it was like, wow, he showed me something there.”

Ryan Franklin pitched 1 1-3 scoreless innings before Tom Gordon finished.

Notes

The Phillies hit an April club record 29 homers, four more than in 1996. They went 10-14 in April for the second season in a row. … Bobby Abreu’s 20 RBIs in April were two short of Von Hayes’ club record, set in 1989. … The Pirates, 1-12 on the road, open a seven-game trip Monday in Chicago.

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