Perez shook off a season-long slump to allow four hits over 7 2/3 mostly dominating innings, outpitching Roy Oswalt and leading the Pirates to only their second home victory, 2-0 over the Houston Astros on Monday night.
Perez (1-2), taking his catcher's advice by mixing up his pitches more than before, didn't give up a hit until two outs in the sixth and struck out nine.
Oswalt (3-2) gave up two runs on sacrifice flies to end his three-game winning game.
Perez developed into one of the NL's top starters at age 22 last season, going 12-10 with a 2.98 ERA and 239 strikeouts. But this season couldn't have gone much worse for the left-hander before Monday, as he was 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA and six homers allowed in 19 innings.
"But I forget everything tonight," Perez said. "I had to be focused, because this was an important game for us. We needed to win."
According to catcher Humberto Cota, Perez turned it around by changing his pitching pattern.
"He's been in the big leagues almost three years and the hitters are starting to know him, they know he's got that great slider," Cota said. "So he's pitching backward more -- when he sees them moving up in the box for the slider, he's throwing the fastball. He's doing the little things now, not just trying to overthrow the ball."
The Pirates had a major league-worst 1-6 home record, but ended a four-game losing streak at PNC Park by dropping the Astros' road record to 1-9 -- also the worst in the majors. The Astros not only couldn't hit Perez consistently, they lost a possible run because of a fan interference call.
"Our rotten luck is a little worse than their rotten luck," manager Phil Garner said.
Craig Biggio doubled down the left-field line with two outs in the eighth and a runner on first, but Raul Chavez was stopped at third when a fan touched the ball. Garner wasn't certain if Chavez might have scored on the play.
"You don't know what might happen -- we might get a run across that breaks the ice," Garner said. "You just don't know."
With the potential tying run at second and Perez tiring after throwing 121 pitches, Rick White came on to get Jeff Bagwell on a fly to right to end the threat. Jose Mesa pitched the ninth for his seventh save in as many opportunities.
Manager Lloyd McClendon predicted hours beforehand Perez was close to being back, and he was right.
"Nothing changed -- his velocity has been there - he just threw strikes," McClendon said. "He kept himself under control ... he didn't get too hyped up."
Perez didn't allow a hit until Bagwell fought off a full-count pitch to single through the hole between first and second with two outs in the sixth. Houston didn't get a runner to second base until the eighth.
"He hit both sides of the plate, with both fastballs and sliders -- I think that was the key for him," Bagwell said. "At times he's almost effectively wild because you don't know exactly where to look for the ball."
Oswalt was nearly as good as Perez, but gave up a run in the fourth on Jason Bay's leadoff double off the wall in right-center, Rob Mackowiak's fly out and Hill's sacrifice fly.
"I slipped on the ball Bay hit to center," Oswalt said. "My landing foot slipped and it brought it back across the plate. That was the only pitch I was mad about all night."
The Pirates made it 2-0 in the seventh, even though Perez -- allowed to bat despite throwing 109 pitches to that point -- struck out with the bases loaded and none out.
Oswalt was lifted for a pinch hitter in the eighth after allowing six hits, striking out six and walking two.
|Oliver Perez allows only four hits over 7 2/3 innings in the Pirates' victory. (AP)|
|Players of the Game|
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|Willy Taveras, CF||4||0||0||0||0||0||1||.286|
|Craig Biggio, 2B||4||0||1||0||0||1||0||.314|
|Jeff Bagwell, 1B||3||0||1||0||1||1||2||.227|
|Dan Wheeler, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Jason Lane, RF||3||0||0||0||1||1||2||.329|
|Morgan Ensberg, 3B||4||0||1||0||0||2||1||.271|
|Chris Burke, LF||4||0||1||0||0||1||1||.250|
|Eric Bruntlett, SS||3||0||0||0||0||3||1||.000|
|Raul Chavez, C||3||0||1||0||0||1||1||.320|
|Roy Oswalt, P||2||0||0||0||0||1||0||.154|
|a- Mike Lamb, PH-1B||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||.192|
|a-popped out for Oswalt in the 8th|
|2B - Craig Biggio (8, Perez)|
|CS - Morgan Ensberg (3, 2nd base by Perez/Cota)|
|Team LOB - 7|
|DP - Bagwell-Bruntlett-Oswalt|
|Roy Oswalt (L,3-2)||7||6||2||2||3||6||0||3.25|
|Pitches-Strikes - Roy Oswalt 95-61, Dan Wheeler 10-7|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Roy Oswalt 9-5, Dan Wheeler 1-2|
|Batters Faced - Roy Oswalt 29, Dan Wheeler 3|
|Matt Lawton, RF||3||0||1||1||0||0||1||.288|
|Freddy Sanchez, 2B||4||0||0||0||0||1||3||.265|
|Jason Bay, LF||4||1||1||0||0||1||0||.273|
|Rob Mackowiak, CF||4||0||1||0||0||1||1||.296|
|Bobby Hill, 3B||3||0||0||1||0||1||1||.345|
|Craig A. Wilson, 1B||1||1||1||0||2||0||0||.254|
|Humberto Cota, C||2||0||0||0||1||0||2||.154|
|Jack Wilson, SS||3||0||2||0||0||0||0||.157|
|Oliver Perez, P||3||0||0||0||0||2||4||.000|
|Rick White, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Jose Mesa, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|2B - Jason Bay (5, Oswalt)|
|SF - Matt Lawton (1), Bobby Hill (1)|
|RBI - Matt Lawton (7), Bobby Hill (5)|
|Team LOB - 6|
|Oliver Perez (W,1-2)||7.2||4||0||0||2||9||0||6.41|
|Rick White (H,2)||0.1||0||0||0||0||0||0||5.63|
|Jose Mesa (S,7)||1||1||0||0||0||2||0||1.29|
|HBP - Bruntlett (by Oliver Perez)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Oliver Perez 121-80, Rick White 1-1, Jose Mesa 22-13|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Oliver Perez 3-10|
|Batters Faced - Oliver Perez 29, Rick White 1, Jose Mesa 4|
|Attendance - 8413|
|Game Time - 2:17|
|Temperature - 53|
|Umpires - Home - Alfonso Marquez, First Base - Rick Reed, Second Base - Terry Craft, Third Base - Ted Barrett|