Series: Game 1 of 2

Pittsburgh leads 1-0 (as of 7/21)

Game 1: Wednesday, July 21
Game 2: Thursday, July 22
in 10

Pirates 4

(44-48, 22-25 away)

Braves 3

(49-45, 26-22 home)

    7:05 PM ET, July 21, 2004

    Turner Field, Atlanta, Georgia 

    123456789 R H E
    PIT 200002000 4 8 0
    ATL 100000011 3 6 2

    W: K. Benson (8-7)

    L: P. Byrd (2-3)

    S: J. Mesa (27)

    Atlanta falls behind Philly in the East

    ATLANTA (AP) -- Kris Benson's trade value keeps going up.

    Benson put on another impressive display for those teams that need pitching help, going eight strong innings to lead the surging Pittsburgh Pirates past the Atlanta Braves 4-3 Wednesday night.

    Tike Redman had three RBI for the Pirates, including a two-run homer.

    Benson, in the final year of his contract and unlikely to re-sign with the Pirates, is being scouted by about a half-dozen teams as the July 31 deadline approaches for trades without waivers.

    Clearly, he's not affected by all the speculation.

    "I know it's a business," said Benson (8-7), who has won four of his last five decisions. "As much as I would like to stay here and help these guys keep winning, I don't know if the GM is going to let me do that."

    The Pirates seem intent on sending Benson out with a flourish. They are closing in on .500 (44-48) after winning for the 17th time in 22 games.

    "If Babe Ruth can get traded, anybody can get traded," Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said. "Don't worry about things you have no control over."

    After the first, Benson (8-7) didn't give up a hit until Andruw Jones' opposite-field single with one out in the eighth. The right-hander retired 21 of 22 batters in one stretch, the only Atlanta runner coming in the third when Charles Thomas was hit by a pitch.

    "There's a lot of talk about him going to other places," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "I can see why. Scouts who saw him tonight would like him an awful lot. He had a great sinker and a super changeup that he threw to lefties a lot.

    "He's really turned into a pitcher."

    Pittsburgh got to Paul Byrd (2-3) for two runs in the first. Jason Kendall led off with a double and scored on Rob Mackowiack's double. Byrd bobbled Craig Wilson's grounder back to the mound for an error, giving Redman a chance to drive in an unearned run with a single to right.

    Redman gave the Pirates a little breathing room in the sixth. After Jason Bay walked with one out, Redman lofted his fifth homer of the season into the right-field stands. Byrd bent over on the mound as the ball disappeared into the crowd.

    "I still consider myself a leadoff man," Redman said. "That's what I want to be. But I'm helping the team out by hitting sixth during this run."

    The Braves started impressively against Benson -- back-to-back singles by Rafael Furcal and Marcus Giles. That was it until the eighth.

    J.D. Drew managed to drive in Furcal with a fielder's choice grounder, but Chipper Jones followed with a grounder back to Benson, who started an inning-ending double play.

    "My fastball got better as the game went along," Benson said.

    Jose Mesa gave up a leadoff homer to Drew in the ninth but retired the next three hitters for his 27th save.

    The Braves had three of their five hits against Benson in the eighth, including Furcal's run-scoring single. But Marcus Giles grounded out with two runners on, and Benson headed for the dugout pumping his fist.

    "Benson has been doing that for us all year," Redman said. "If he keeps pitching like that, we're going to get a lot of wins."

    It doesn't appear he'll be getting a lot more wins with the Pirates. Benson will likely be traded to a team in playoff contention.

    "I think about it all the time when I'm out and about," he said. "But I've got a job to do. It doesn't cross my mind when I'm on the mound."

    Benson has played a big part in the Pirates' turnaround. He has yielded no more than two earned runs in six of his last seven starts, gone at lead seven innings in 10 straight starts and hasn't allowed a homer in (60) consecutive innings.

    Byrd went six innings, another solid outing in his comeback from elbow surgery. He has not allowed more than three earned runs in any of his six starts since coming off the disabled list.

    "My fastball was great and my slider didn't show up tonight. Nor did my changeup," Byrd said. "The whole night seemed like it was a battle. It was just one of those games where I didn't really have it."

    That first-inning error loomed large at the end, too.

    "The bottom line is: I catch that ball in the first, we're still playing," Byrd said. "That's probably what's most frustrating about it."

    Game notes

    Drew's 23rd homer extended his career-best hitting streak to 18 games. ... Pirates SS Jack Wilson went 0-for-4 but is still on pace to become the first Pittsburgh player with more than 200 hits since Dave Parker in 1977. ... Benson, who went to high school in suburban Atlanta, won for the first time at Turner Field and improved to 3-1 with a 1.69 ERA in his career against the Braves. ... The Pirates have turned a major league-leading 107 double plays, including seven in the last three games.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press