PITTSBURGH -- Ian Snell came to the ballpark in a bad mood, only to give the Pittsburgh Pirates a much-needed dash of encouragement in what has been their worst April in 50 seasons.
Snell allowed an unearned run over seven innings to outduel Brett Myers and end Pittsburgh's seven-game losing streak. Jack Wilson drove in the go-ahead run in the Pirates' 3-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday night.
Craig Wilson and Jason Bay also drove in runs as the Pirates won for only the sixth time in 24 games during their worst start since 1957. They were coming off an 0-6 road trip to Houston and St. Louis.
The Pirates had lost 10 of 11 and 11 of 13 before the right-handed Snell finally pitched like the top prospect he is supposed to be, striking out seven and giving up five hits in his 11th career start and second victory. His only other win came when he pitched eight shutout innings to beat the Astros' Roger Clemens on Sept. 19.
Snell (1-2) began the game with a 7.71 ERA that was the highest among the starting pitchers on a Pirates staff with an NL-worst 5.71 ERA. But, unhappy that media commentators are singling out the last-place Pirates for ridicule, he didn't allow a batter to advance past second over the first six innings. The Phillies' only run came after third baseman Joe Randa's error in the seventh.
"I was kind of angry," Snell said. "People think they can come in here and bully us, and they're talking bad about the team. My dad called me and said they were making fun of us on TV. I didn't like that. I needed to go out there and get my swagger back."
With the Pirates up 1-0 following Craig Wilson's RBI double in the sixth, Ryan Howard singled to start the seventh and moved to second when Randa fumbled Aaron Rowand's grounder. After David Bell bunted the runners up, Howard scored on Mike Lieberthal's ground out.
"I told myself then to keep my head in the game and keep throwing strikes," Snell said of the potentially big inning created by the error.
Snell was lifted for a pinch hitter after allowing no further scoring, and picked up the victory when the Pirates scored twice in the seventh against Myers (2-1). Chris Duffy doubled with two outs and scored on Jack Wilson's single through the hole at short, and Bay had a run-scoring double.
Despite the Pirates' terrible start, the two Wilsons are hitting a combined .464 with runners in scoring position -- Jack Wilson is 7-of-12 (.583) and Craig Wilson is 6-of-16 (.375).
"We had three two-out base hits to score runs," manager Jim Tracy said, referring to the Pirates' season-long lack of hits in key situations. "You hope it's the start of something."
Tracy feels the same way about Snell.
After being roughed up for 16 runs in his first three starts, Snell has settled down to allow three runs, two earned, over 13 innings in his last two starts to lower his ERA to 5.79 -- about five runs per game lower than it was a week ago.
One reason for the turnaround is that Snell, 58-20 in the minors before being called up last year, is learning how to keep major league hitters off balance by mixing in more breaking pitches and changeups with his 96-mph fastball.
"He has such a good fastball that he could overpower folks in the minor leagues," Howard said. "He had to learn up here. I knew he was going to try to come up and overpower everybody, but he got me tonight on a 3-2 backdoor breaking ball."
Myers was excellent over the first five innings, only to allow three runs in his final two. He struck out eight but gave up nine hits while pitching with at least one runner on base in all but one inning. He stayed in to throw 120 pitches -- 20 to the first two batters, Duffy and Jack Wilson, in a scoreless first inning.
The Phillies also are off to a slow start, 9-13, after being 10-14 in April a year ago.
"I don't think it's anything major at all," Myers said. "We've got to play better, I guess, execute better and do the little things right. Hopefully, we can get this month over with and maybe we'll come out in May and go 30-0 or something."
Damaso Marte followed Snell with a scoreless eighth and Mike Gonzalez pitched the ninth for his third save in as many opportunities and his first since April 11.
The Pirates are 5-6 at home but 1-12 on the road. ... Pittsburgh's losing streak was its longest since it dropped nine in a row from June 5-15, 2004. The Pirates were outscored 34-12 during their seven-game skid. ... Bell went hitless after having three consecutive two-hit games. ... Phillies SS Jimmy Rollins singled in his final two at-bats after being 8-for-50 since April 13.