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.

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