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Pittsburgh wins at home for first time this year

4/10/2003

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Pirates were terrible in
interleague play last season. Maybe it convinced them to add some
American League talent.

Randall Simon hit a three-run homer in the first inning to
support Jeff Suppan's second consecutive strong start, leading the
Pirates past the Milwaukee Brewers 3-1 Thursday.

The Pirates avoided a three-game sweep and won for the first
time at home after starting the season 5-1 on the road. The Brewers
lost their seventh in nine games, even though starter Ben Sheets
didn't allow any scoring after the first.

In his two starts since signing with Pittsburgh, Suppan (2-0)
has allowed only two runs and 10 hits in 13 1-3 innings. He
averaged more than 200 innings each of the last four seasons with
Kansas City, but was only 39-51 with an ERA above 4.50 in three of
the four seasons.

Maybe Suppan was as eager to change leagues as the Pirates were
to add a starter who has proven he can pitch a lot of innings.

"I'm still trying to learn the National League," said Suppan,
whose only previous NL experience came in 13 games with Arizona in
1998. "I'm trying to learn as fast as I can."

What NL pitchers are quickly learning is that no pitch is out of
Simon's strike zone.

The former Tigers first baseman hit a Sheets pitch off his
shoetops into the right-field seats for his second homer. His next
time up, he hit a high-and-away pitch off the right field wall,
just missing a second homer.

"I don't know how I did it," Simon said. "I'm strong enough
that I know if I hit it, it can go out. We've got a short porch in
right field, and that helps."

Kenny Lofton led off the first with a single up the middle and
Brian Giles reached a batter later on a force-play grounder.

Sheets (0-2) then found out what AL pitchers came to learn: the
best way to pitch Simon might be to throw the ball right down the
middle.

"He just golfed that out of the park," Brewers manager Ned
Yost said. "Randall will swing at anything. He and Vladimir
Guerrero are the two best bad ball hitters in the league. Randall
is awfully tough because he doesn't walk and doesn't strike out."

What the Pirates want Suppan to do is throw more strikes. They
felt he frequently worked around hitters in the AL, too often
running the count full while failing to pitch aggressively.

"I'm working on it," Suppan said. "It's nice to start with a
couple of wins over here. You're trying to show the manager and
your defense how you can pitch. I tried to keep the ball down and
get the outs I needed, and it worked."

Suppan gave up Geoff Jenkins' run-scoring single in the first
before settling down, giving up seven hits, walking one and
striking out seven in 7 1/3 innings.

Suppan was in trouble in the sixth as Eric Young and Richie
Sexson singled and John Vander Wal walked to load the bases, but
the right-hander struck out Keith Ginter on a 2-2 pitch.

Relievers Scott Sauerbeck and Brian Boehringer each got an out
in the eighth after the Brewers put runners on first and second
with one out. Mike Williams pitched the ninth for his fourth save
in as many chances.

Sheets remained winless after three starts, despite pitching
much better than he did while allowing eight runs and 12 hits in 12
innings in his first two starts. He also had a slow start a year
ago, going 1-3 with a 4.62 ERA in his first five starts. He
finished 11-16.

"He had shutout stuff," Yost said. "But so did Suppan."

Milwaukee, which entered the series 0-6, was denied its first
three-game sweep in Pittsburgh since July 2-4, 1999. The Brewers
are 6-16 in Pittsburgh since PNC Park opened in 2001.

Game notes
The Pirates were 3-9 against the AL last season and were
swept by Oakland and Texas in three-game series in PNC Park. ...
The game time temperature was 50. The crowd of 10,384 was the
smallest since PNC Park opened in 2001. ... Brewers RF Jeffrey
Hammonds sat out the series with a hyperextended left elbow and may
miss the weekend series in Arizona. ... Alex Sanchez was 0-for-7 in
the series before leading off the game with a single. He was coming
off a 7-for-14 series against the Giants. ... Lofton has at least
one hit in each of his eight starts. .. Suppan is 4-1 against the
Brewers, but faced them for only the second time since 1997. ...
Reggie Sanders, in a 1-for-14 slump for Pittsburgh, didn't start
against the right-handed Sheets.

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