Mackowiak hits two-run, go-ahead homer

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Chipper Jones is hurting again, the Atlanta

Braves aren't scoring and their pitching staff is down another

starter. No wonder they were ready to get out of Pittsburgh,

normally one of the most hospitable of venues for them.

Rob Mackowiak hit a go-ahead two-run homer, Matt Lawton added a

solo shot and the Pirates beat the skidding Braves 5-2 Sunday

behind seven strong innings by Oliver Perez.

Did You Know?

This is the latest in a season an entire division of five or more teams has been at .500 or better since June 12, 1994 (AL East).

NL East Standings

1. Washington 31-26 --

2. Atlanta 30-26 ½

3. Philadelphia 30-27 1

3. NY Mets 30-27 1

5. Florida 28-26 1½

-- ESPN Research

Perez allowed four hits to win his third consecutive decision

since missing a start with shoulder soreness. He struck out seven

and walked three to help the Pirates win their fifth time in seven


Mackowiak, who had three hits, followed Daryle Ward's leadoff

double in the sixth with his sixth homer, a drive into the

right-field seats off reliever Adam Benero (3-1) on a 1-2 pitch.

The Pirates added a run in the seventh on reliever Jorge Sosa's

two-base throwing error on Freddy Sanchez's sacrifice -- Atlanta's

first error in 12 games -- and Jason Bay's sacrifice fly.

The Braves have dropped seven of 10 to fall a half-game behind

Washington in a jam-packed NL East, where only 1½ games separate

first place from fifth place.

"In this division, you can be in first place one day and in

last the next," manager Bobby Cox said.

The Braves head back home to play the Angels in an interleague

game Monday, but Jones will miss at least that game after

reinjuring his left foot grounding out in the eighth. He missed

seven games the last time he hurt the foot in April, but said the

pain felt worse this time.

"Nobody seems to know what's wrong with it," Jones said. "I

was initially diagnosed with a bone bruise, but it's safe to say

five weeks later it's not a bruise. Maybe we'll take a closer look

at it and see what's wrong."

Right now, there's nothing wrong with the Pirates, who don't

look like the team that started 4-11. They're 5-2 so far against

the Marlins and Braves on a 13-game homestand that continues with

the Orioles and Devil Rays.

"I felt we could compete with the big-time teams because of our

starting pitching," manager Lloyd McClendon said.

The Pirates showed the Braves the kind of pitching Atlanta is

accustomed to getting, but isn't seeing as much lately with

starters John Thomson and Mike Hampton injured. Hampton returned to

the disabled list Sunday for the second time in a month with

tightness in his throwing arm.

Perez (4-4) gave the Pirates their third consecutive effective

start against the Braves, who had beaten the Pirates 19 times in 27

games since 2001 before dropping two of three over the weekend. Kip

Wells pitched 7 2/3 shutout innings in a 3-1 victory Friday and

Mark Redman threw eight shutout innings Saturday before the Braves

won 1-0 in the ninth.

Perez gave up Ryan Langerhans' two-run homer in the fifth -- the

10th time in 11 starts the left-hander has given up at least one

homer -- but otherwise allowed only one runner as far as second. The

Braves scored only four runs in the series.

"He's almost back to being the old Oliver of last year,"

catcher Humberto Cota said of Perez, who was 1-4 with an ERA

approaching 8.00 before winning three straight.

Rick White followed Perez with a scoreless eighth and Jose Mesa

pitched the ninth for his 16th save in 18 opportunities, striking

out Adam LaRoche to end the game with two runners on.

Braves spot starter Seth Greisinger, who made nine starts for

Minnesota last season, gave up Jose Castillo's run-scoring single

in the first and Lawton's solo homer, his sixth, in the fifth.

Lawton went 3-for-4 and reached base eight successive times before

striking out in the eighth.

"That [Lawton] homer was a real spark," Mackowiak said. "We

didn't play all that great earlier this season, but we're playing

pretty good right now ... and we needed to come through and win

this game."

The Pirates twice had runners thrown out at the plate to end

potential big innings, Ward in the first and Freddy Sanchez in the

seventh, both on singles by Mackowiak.

"Maybe I've got to get some faster runners ahead of me,"

Mackowiak said.Game notes
Jones went 0-for-3 and is in a 1-for-27 slump. ... The

Pirates are 7-2-1 in their last 10 series after going 1-5-3 in

their first nine. ... Pittsburgh is 5-2 against the NL East. ...

Perez has given up 16 homers in 60 1/3 innings after allowing 22 in

196 innings last season. ... Greisinger's start was his second

against Pittsburgh. He limited them to one run in eight innings in

a 9-1 victory for Detroit on July 1, 1998, one of only 10 victories

he has in the majors. He missed most of three seasons with an elbow