Series: Game 1 of 3

Pittsburgh leads 1-0 (as of 7/23)

Game 1: Friday, July 23
Game 2: Saturday, July 24
Game 3: Sunday, July 25

Reds 3

(50-47, 22-29 away)

Pirates 6

(45-49, 23-23 home)

    7:05 PM ET, July 23, 2004

    PNC Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 

    123456789 R H E
    CIN 000201000 3 5 1
    PIT 00420000 - 6 11 0

    W: O. Perez (6-4)

    L: J. Acevedo (4-9)

    S: J. Mesa (28)

    Wilson drives in two against depleted Reds

    PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Oliver Perez doesn't have a favorite opponent. His stats against the Cincinnati Reds say otherwise.

    Perez struck out 11 in seven innings, and Craig Wilson drove in two runs to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 6-3 victory over the Reds on Friday.

    In 56 career starts, Perez (6-4) has 10 outings with 10 strikeouts or more, including five against the Reds.

    Asked if the Reds are his favorite team to pitch against, Perez said, "I like it every five days, when I go to the mound. I try to be happy and to enjoy the game."

    He added: "I'm always excited about striking people out."

    Perez leads the majors this season with 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings. He gave up five hits, one walk and three runs before a sellout crowd of 37,703.

    "I've never seen the guy bad," Reds manager Dave Miley said.

    Reds starter Jose Acevedo (4-9) gave up nine hits and six runs in 3 1/3 innings and hasn't won since June 25, when he beat the Pirates.

    "This was the worst I have been in my whole career," Acevedo said. "I tried to do my best, but it's not coming through."

    The Pirates are 6-2 since the All-Star break and have won 18 of 24. They improved to 23-23 at PNC Park after starting 9-19 at home this season.

    Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon believes the key to his team's turnaround is the starting pitching. Pittsburgh's starters have won 14 of 17 decisions and have pitched at least six innings in 25 of 28 games.

    "I told you guys a month-and-a-half ago that I thought our starting pitching would come around and carry us," McClendon said. "It has."

    Salomon Torres retired the side in order in the eighth and Jose Mesa worked the ninth for his 28th save in 29 opportunities.

    "He's been our stabilizer," McClendon said.

    The injury-riddled Reds, playing without Ken Griffey Jr., Austin Kearns and Brandon Larson, dropped their third in a row and are 3-6 since the break.

    The Pirates batted around and scored four runs in the third against Acevedo.

    Jason Kendall started the rally with a single. Rob Mackowiak walked and Wilson was hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out.

    Jason Bay then beat out a dribbler down the third-base line to score Kendall. Bay is now hitting .500 (6-for-12) with the bases loaded.

    Tike Redman followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 2-0, and Bobby Hill drove a long single off the right-field wall to bring home two more runs, the second of which scored on right fielder Wily Mo Pena's throwing error.

    Jason LaRue cut the Pirates' lead in-half in the fourth with a two-run home off Perez. LaRue smacked a 1-0 pitch over the 410-foot mark in left-center for his 12th home run of the season. He has a nine-game hitting streak.

    Wilson answered for the Pirates with a two-run single in the fourth, snapping an 0-for-14 streak, to make it 6-2. Wilson's hit knocked Acevedo out of the game.

    Game notes

    The Pirates have won 10 consecutive games against NL Central teams. ... Kendall has reached base safely in 23 straight games. ... Craig Wilson, hit by a pitch in the third, leads the majors in HBPs with 20. ... LaRue's second-inning triple was his first of the season. ... Miley gave left-handed hitting Adam Dunn a day off because Perez was pitching.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press