Tag:Jeff Karstens
Posted on: July 26, 2011 4:50 pm

On Deck: Seattle primed for 17th straight loss

On Deck

By Evan Brunell

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MarinersCHASE FOR 17: The Mariners will go for their 17th straight loss on Tuesday, running up against the powerful Yankees and ace CC Sabathia. That's a tall task for the Mariners, who will offer up Doug Fister. Fister isn't exactly a terrible pitcher, but he's no Sabathia. Fister's success this season is dependent on a below-average walk rate and limiting home runs, which isn't exactly hard to do in his home park, where he's allowed two of his six homers on the season. By the way, fun fact on the 16 straight losses by Seattle: Back in 2001, the Mariners won 116 games, and their 16th loss of the year was on June 18. Mariners vs. Yankees, 7:05 p.m. ET

KarstensHansonBEST MATCHUP: Yep, your good old Pirates are part of the best matchup, which will pit Jeff Karstens and his surprising 2.28 ERA against the Braves' fireballer Tommy Hanson. Hanson has a 3.0 ERA and is really the better pitcher to have both this year and in the long run because of his excellent peripherals, but Karstens has registered the second-lowest ERA in the NL. He's done so by taking a minuscule 4.2 walk percentage, fourth lowest in all of baseball. And these days, every win is paramount in Pittsburgh as it will put more and more pressure on the front office to make a move to improve the club, which everyone and their mother agrees is necessary. The Pirates are tied for first with the Cardinals, a mere half-game up on the Brew Crew. Atlanta, meanwhile, has fallen to six games behind Philadelphia and at this point have to be more concerned with ensuring their grip on the wild-card race Pirates vs. Braves, 7:10 p.m. ET

VerlanderCY YOUNG SHOWCASE: The Tigers are one game ahead Cleveland for first place, and what better pitcher to keep Detroit in first than Justin Verlander? Seemingly the leader for the AL Cy Young Award, Verlander has a 2.24 ERA in 165 innings, punching out 162. While he's been untouchable much of the year, one of his worst starts of the season came on Jul 15, allowing five runs in six innings. The White Sox, meanwhile, are caught between deciding to go for it or rebuild. At just 3 1/2 out, the series outcome could put a stamp on Chicago's future. It already took down Detroit on Monday, so can be assured of a series win Tuesday as the ChiSox offer up Jake Peavy, a one-time Cy Young Award winner who is now struggling to stay healthy and contribute in the AL. Tigers vs. White Sox, 8:10 p.m. ET

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Posted on: July 20, 2011 10:59 am
Edited on: July 20, 2011 12:16 pm

On Deck: Dueling out west


By Matt Snyder

With six day games -- including several of pretty solid intrigue -- we'll hit you with On Deck early on this Wednesday. Why? Well, we aim to please. It is a full slate, as usual on a Wednesday, as there are nine night games. The last one of the night is one of the most exciting matchups, too. Let's dive in.

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Pair of aces: How does Clayton Kershaw (10-4, 2.88) vs. Tim Lincecum (8-7, 2.99) sound? Pretty awesome, right? Because that's happening Wednesday afternoon. Kershaw's Dodgers are 14-1/2 games behind Lincecum's first-place Giants in the NL West, but Kershaw has owned the offensively challenged Giants in his career. The major-league leader in strikeouts is 3-1 with a 1.62 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 60 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings against the defending champs. The Giants have a new toy in infielder Jeff Keppinger and have added prospect Brandon Belt to their punchless lineup in hopes to get things kickstarted, but Kershaw's a tall order. Then again, two-time Cy Young Award winner Lincecum is likewise a tall order for the Dodgers. Don't expect this one to last long, unless it goes 0-0 or 1-1 to extras. Oh, and did I mention that whole Dodgers-Giants rivalry? This is a must-watch. L.A. Dodgers at San Francisco, 3:45 p.m. ET.

Haren's tough task: While the afternoon game out west is a must-watch, so is the last game of the night. The Texas Rangers have opened up a five-game lead in the AL West on the strength of a 12-game winning streak. They had some huge offensive games early in the streak, but the pitching is doing the heavy lifting at this juncture. The Rangers have only allowed two runs in the past six games, which include four shutouts. Toeing the slab late Wednesday night is Derek Holland (8-4, 4.32), who just happens to have thrown a complete-game shutout in each of his last two outings. So the Angels need to find a way to scratch across some runs against one of the hottest pitchers -- and pitching staffs, for that matter -- in baseball, meanwhile cool off one of the best hitting teams in baseball. Dan Haren (10-6, 2.75) certainly has the ability to do so for the Angels. He's looking to stop the Rangers' 12-game winning streak and the Angels' three-game losing streak. Texas at L.A. Angels, 10:05 p.m. ET.

More pitching:
The most underrated pitching matchup of the day just happens to include the first-place Pirates, who are catching the eye of the nation. Did you know the Pirates haven't had a winning season in 18 years? Of course, you did, but we aren't gonig to let you forget it if they continue to play like this. Tuesday, the Pirates got a 1-0 win in Cincinnati. Wednesday, one of the most -- if not the most -- surprising starters in the league takes the hill for the Bucs. Jeff Karstens (8-4, 2.34) ranks third in ERA in the NL among qualifiers, trailing only a pair of All-Stars in Ryan Vogelsong and Jair Jurrjens. Karstens has been lights-out since the beginning of June, though, as he's 5-0 with a 1.26 ERA in that time. His counterpart Wednesday, Johnny Cueto (5-3, 2.01), is no slouch either. The Reds need a win to avoid a sweep and falling six games back in the NL Central. Of note: Karstens has a pretty bad career history against the Reds, though the Pirates are 7-1 against the Reds this season. Cincinnati at Pittsburgh, 12:35 p.m. ET.

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Posted on: July 16, 2011 1:30 am
Edited on: July 16, 2011 9:38 am

3 Up, 3 Down: Phillips stings Cardinals

Brandon Phillips

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Brandon Phillips, Reds:Phillips didn't exactly enhance his standing in St. Louis. Already the most hated man in eastern Missouri, Phillips hit a two-out, walk-off homer to give the Reds a 6-5 victory over St. Louis. Phillips had an error that gave St. Louis its first lead off starter Johnny Cueto

Jeff Karstens, Pirates: The Pirates right-hander allowed just five hits and needed only 83 pitches in a shutout victory in Houston, which when coupled with losses by the Cardinals and Brewers catapulted the Pirates into a tie for first place. Seriously, a tie for first place. Karstens became  the first Pirate to win five-straight decisions since 2006 and lowered his ERA to 2.34, third-best in the National League, leapfrogging Roy Halladay.

Eric Hosmer, Royals: With two outs in the ninth, Hosmer took Twins closer Matt Capps deep over the wall in center at Target Field, giving the Royals a 2-1 lead. Closer Joakim Soria made it interesting in the bottom of the ninth, but the Royals held on for the victory. Hosmer now has nine home runs on the season.

Nationals defense: Washington had five errors in Friday's 11-1 loss to the Braves. First baseman Michael Morse had two errors on one play in the first inning and added another later in the game. Morse had just one error in his first six seasons in the big leagues. Shortstop Ian Desmond had another error in the Braves' four-run first. Ryan Zimmerman added the team's fifth miscue later when a ball went between his legs in the sixth.

Hanley Ramirez, Marlins: Usually a player's 1,000th career hit would be a time of celebration. Not for Ramirez, who was slow out of the box on a ball to the gap in the ninth inning. Cubs center-fielder Marlon Byrd made a strong throw to second to nab Ramirez. The Marlins scored their only run of the game one batter later on Logan Morrison's RBI single that should have tied the game at 2. Instead, the Cubs lifted a struggling Carlos Marmol, and Sean Marshall picked up a one-out save for Chicago, ending Florida's six-game winning streak.

Matt Tolbert, Twins: When you come in a pinch-runner, you're supposed to be smart on the basebaths. That's all the Twins ask of Tolbert -- well, that and running faster than Jim Thome -- but he didn't do his job. With one out in the ninth and the Twins trailing 2-1, Tolbert stood on third with Luke Hughes at the plate. Hughes hit a tapper back to the mound, but instead of holding at third, Tolbert was easily thrown out at the plate. One batter later Tsuyoshi Nishioka grounded out to end the game.

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Posted on: July 15, 2011 11:47 pm
Edited on: July 15, 2011 11:56 pm

Pirates move into first place in NL Central

Neil WalkerBy C. Trent Rosecrans

Just because I can, I'm going to type this sentence -- the Pittsburgh Pirates are in first place.

And it's true. Wait, it gets better. It's July 15 and the Pirates and the Cleveland Indians are in first place. Who had that at the beginning of the year?

The Pirates beat the Astros behind a shutout from Jeff Karstens, while the Brewers fell to the Rockies and the Reds topped the Cardinals. With Friday's results the Pirates lead the Cardinals by just percentage points -- .5275 to .5269. Milwaukee is a half-game back of the leaders, with the Reds three games back.

I touched on this the other day, but the Pirates are the season's best story and could break the franchise's streak of 18 consecutive losing seasons. The team started off hot then faded a bit, but have hung around and are now 48-43 on the season.

The Indians used two-run homers by Asdrubal Cabrera and Grady Sizemore to send the Orioles to their ninth straight loss. Cleveland broke its tie with the Tigers when the White Sox put five runs on Justin Verlander for an 8-2 victory in Detroit.

We'll see if either team is there at the end, but at this point, who cares? It's after the All-Star break and the Indians and Pirates are in first place and that's just awesome.

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Posted on: July 6, 2011 1:15 am
Edited on: July 6, 2011 1:19 am

3 Up, 3 Down: Pirates surge to second place

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Pittsburgh Pirates: With their 5-1 victory over the Astros, the Pirates improved to four games over .500 (45-41) this late in the season for the first time since 1992. The win, coupled with Milwaukee's loss to the Diamondbacks, moved Pittsburgh into second place in the National League Central, 1 1/2 games behind the Cardinals. Jeff Karstens allowed one run on seven hits in seven innings, improving to 7-4 on the season and lowering his ERA to 2.55. Brandon Wood added a two-run homer in the win.

Dan Haren, Angels: The Angels' right-hander allowed just two hits in a shutout victory over Justin Verlander and the Tigers on Tuesday. Haren struck out nine batters, earning his ninth win of the season and the 100th of his career as he retired the last 15 batters he faced. The Angels have now won 10 of their last 12. Verlander struck out eight, while allowing a run and seven hits in 7 1/3 innings. He was ejected from the game as he left the mound and was credited with his first loss in his last 12 starts.

Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners: Sometimes the best part of baseball isn't the towering shot or the big strikeout, but the other things a player can do to help his team win. With one out and runners on first and second in the top of the 10th, Brendan Ryan hit a grounder to A's second baseman Jemile Weeks who flipped it to Cliff Pennington, but Suzuki was on the move and slid wide, disrupting Pennington's throw to first. The throw went by first baseman Connor Jackson and allowing the go-ahead run to score. Adam Kennedy followed with an RBI double to give the Mariners a 4-2 victory. None of that would have happened without Ichiro's slide.
Randy Wolf, Brewers: Milwaukee's left-hander gave up four runs in the first inning and then allowed two home runs to put the Brewers in a 7-1 hole. Wolf did throw three more scoreless innings to at least give the bullpen some rest, but when that's the best that can be said about a start, it's not a very good start. The Brewers lost consecutive games at home for the first time this season and fell to third place in the National League Central.

Chris Volstad, Marlins: Perhaps Jack McKeon should just skip Volstad's next start against the Phillies. In two games against Philadelphia this season, the right-hander has allowed 15 runs in 9 2/3 innings, including seven runs in four innings in Tuesday's 14-2 in Florida.

Jeff Baker, Cubs: With bases loaded and no outs in the first inning of Tuesday's game in Washington, Ramon Ortiz got Laynce Nix to do exactly what he wanted him to do -- a tailor-made ground ball to second base. It would cost the team a run, but two outs for one run is fine in the first inning. Instead, the Nationals would get two runs and the Cubs no outs as Baker airmailed the short throw into left past shortstop Darwin Barney. The Nationals would score one more run in the inning, but that was all they needed, beating Chicago 3-2.

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Posted on: June 25, 2011 11:43 am
Edited on: June 25, 2011 5:36 pm

On Deck: Unlikely excitement


By Matt Snyder

It's the middle of June and we have a full Saturday slate. Think back to March. What if we said the Pirates, Nationals and Diamondbacks would be involved in significant games at this point in the season?

BoSox Losing Streak, Wake's Old Home: The Red Sox just finished a stretch where they went 14-2, one that included a nine-game winning streak. Seeing the Padres and Pirates on the schedule next for a team riding so high looked quite enticing -- on paper anyway. Instead, the Red Sox have lost three straight and face a Pirates team Saturday that is not only above .500, but is also only three games out in the NL Central. We're just about a week away from the season's halfway point, too, so it's high time the Pirates be taken seriously. Tim Wakefield (4-2, 4.26), who was a member of the last Pirates' team to break .500 as a rookie -- and he's 44 now, by the way -- takes the hill for the Red Sox. Jeff Karstens (4-4, 2.54) is the starter for Pittsburgh, and he's been dealing of late -- sporting a 0.65 ERA in 27 2/3 innings in June. Any way you slice it, this game is a must-watch. Boston at Pittsburgh, 7:05 p.m. ET.

Something's Gotta Give: It doesn't seem to matter who is managing, as the Nationals got the job done Friday night with an interim manager for their interim manager. They've now won 12 of 13 and are only 3 1/2 games behind the Braves for second place in the NL East -- which is more significant because the Braves are the wild card leader. They have a tough task Saturday against John Danks (3-8, 4.29), so long as you look deeper than the season-long numbers. Danks started the season 0-8, a stretch that included several really good starts with really bad support from his teammates -- be it the offense, the defense or the bullpen. Since then, he's 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 17 strikeouts in 22 innings. The White Sox still haven't been able to sustain a good stretch for an extended period of time, but they're only 4 1/2 games out in the wild AL Central. Tom Gorzelanny (2-5, 4.53) takes the hill for the surging Nats. Washington at Chicago (AL), 4:10 p.m. ET.

D-Backs Tested: Unlike the Pirates and Nationals, the Diamondbacks aren't simply threatening. They are in first place in the NL West, holding a half-game lead in the NL West over the defending champion Giants. The Snakes have won four straight after a 6-8 stretch, bringing them to nine games above .500, their high water mark for the season. Rookie sensation Josh Collmenter (4-3, 2.09) takes the ball for Arizona, though he's far from the draw in this one. Justin Verlander (9-3, 2.54) gets the nod for the Tigers. The ace right-hander is arguably the most dominant pitcher in baseball at this point. The Tigers haven't lost a game he's pitched since May 19 and he hasn't taken a loss since April 27. In his last five starts, Verlander is 5-0 with a 0.86 ERA, 0.65 WHIP and 37 strikeouts in 41 2/3 innings. In that span, he has two complete games and his shortest outing was 7 2/3 innings. The Tigers trail the Indians by one game in the AL Central. The test here is definitely the D-Backs' offense against Verlander. Arizona at Detroit, 7:05 p.m. ET.

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Posted on: May 29, 2011 10:59 am
Edited on: May 29, 2011 1:46 pm

On Deck: Let's play two

By C. Trent Rosecrans 

Andrew OliverLet's play two -- Nearly gone are the days of the scheduled doubleheader (the A's have one next month), but Mother Nature can still provide us with the occasional twin bill. The Tigers are calling up hard-throwing left-hander Andy Oliver (left) to face Clay Buchholz in what looks like the pitching matchup undercard, as Justin Verlander faces Josh Beckett in the nightcap. The two aces faced each other 10 days ago, with neither starter factoring in the decision of the 4-3 Boston victory. Saturday's rainout was the fourth in the last nine home games for the Tigers. The forecast for today has a 40 percent chance of rain and scattered thunderstorms later this afternoon, so both teams will be keeping their fingers crossed that it stays dry. Red Sox at Tigers, 1:05 p.m. ET (Watch live) and 7:05 p.m. ET

Search for first -- The Mariners, owners of the worst record in the American League last season, enter Sunday's game against the Yankees just a half-game out of first place in the American League West. To reach first today, the Mariners need the Royals to beat the Rangers and overcome Yankees ace CC Sabathia, who is 9-4 with a 2.58 ERA in 17 career starts against Seattle. Sabathia's coming off his first complete game of the season, while Mariners lefty Justin Vargas is coming off a rough outing in Minnesota where he didn't make it into the fifth inning. Yankees at Mariners, 4:05 p.m. ET (Watch live)

We're going sweeping? -- For all of the Pirates' problems in the last, say 18 years, beating the Cubs hasn't been an issue in the last year or so. Since Sept. 30, 2009, Pittsburgh is 16-6 against Chicago and 11-5 at Wrigley Field. The tally is 4-1 for both entries into the ledge this season. Right-hander Jeff Karstens is 4-2 with a 3.86 ERA in six starts (and two relief appearances) against the Cubs in his career -- and 4-1 with a 2.25 ERA in four starts (and one relief appearance) at Wrigley Field. He faces off against Ryan Dempster, who lost to the Pirates on opening day. Pirates at Cubs, 2:20 p.m. ET (Watch live)

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Posted on: May 9, 2011 8:43 pm
Edited on: May 9, 2011 9:03 pm

Pirates reach .500, eye bright future


By Evan Brunell

The Pittsburgh Pirates finishing .500? There's a whole generation of baseball fans that don't understand that concept, but that's exactly where the Bucs find themselves at just over one month into the season.

Now 17-17, Pittsburgh will look to go one game over .500 as they face the Dodgers Monday night. If it can pull that off, it will be the first time since May 29, 2004 that the club was over .500 this late in a season. Unfortunately, 2004's squad finished with 89 losses and the ensuing years saw an even worse decline, so that statistic doesn't mean that the club has made any type of progress.

But when you look at 2004's club against 2011's, it's clear that progress has been made.

Back then, the Pirates weren't as young a club, although many were still under 30 years of age. Some ended up with good seasons, with a 26-year-old Jack Wilson slashing .308/.335/.459 with 41 doubles, which remains his best year to date. Craig Wilson at age 27 cranked 29 homers but never again approached these levels and was out of baseball after 2007. Most of the other hitters with one notable exception in Jason Bay have gone on to vanish or barely cling to relevancy (Jason Kendall and Ty Wigginton).

The pitching side of the ledger had a fantastic year by Oliver Perez and Kris Benson's solid 20-start stint prior to being traded to the Mets hide what was a poor staff that was shored up by a strong bullpen. All told, while the team was relatively young, it was only as good as it was thanks to the performances of five players, four of which never approached 2004 levels again.

It's a different story in 2011, with a much younger club. That's not reflected in the average age of the squads as 2011's 27.9 average age is higher than 2004's 27.45, but the Pirates boast a yonger core with the potential to be among the game's best. The bullpen has been effective to start the year  and the rotation is deeper than 2004's counterparts. That may come as an oddity when Kevin Correia is the ace of the club, but it's no less true. Offensively, Pedro Alvarez, Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata and Neil Walker form a quartet that 2004's club can't hold a candle to.

For the Pirates to sustain their newfound dominance, however, they have to step up their prospect procurement. This is a team that is thin on pitching and saw that partly addressed in last season's draft with the selections of Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie, but still has an overall farm that Baseball America ranked 19th last season, largely due to the graduations of the offensive core. Compare that to 2004's ranking of 11, topped by Zach Duke and a host of other pitchers that failed to ascend.

It's no wonder that the 2004 club dipped to 89 losses, and as promising as 2011's club is, Pittsburgh will have to look ahead toward next year as a more realistic chance of breaking the streak of futility. It is difficult to envision Correia continuing to pitch to a 2.91 ERA, and as interesting as Charlie Morton's progress is, a regression has to be expected until (and if) he fixes his control problems, which he took a step forward in doing so in his last start by allowing only one free pass. And while James McDonald can be counted on to improve, it'll be balanced out by Jeff Karstens's probable regression.

For Pittsburgh to have any hope at finishing at .500, it will come from an offense ranked 22nd in runs scored so far. The entire infield plus Tabata and McCutchen are off to quite a slow start. Their expected improvement could offset pitching regression, but the other issue at play is Pittsburgh's division counterparts. Now that Milwaukee has its top three starting pitchers healthy and contributing, so their 14-20 record will turn around in a hurry and that's bad news for the Pirates given the imbalanced schedule that pits Pittsburgh against its NL compatriots for the majority of the games. Thus, even if the offensive regrouping does offset the pitching, it's difficult to envision a .500 record being sustained, especially once injuries hit the pitching staff; the club has virtually no pitching to speak of in Triple-A which is a flaw that will get exposed at some point.

Still, the improvement in the Steel City has to lend a certain amount of optimism to its long-suffering fans, who would glady take any type of improvement even if it it's not an 81-81 record. While even 1997 and 1998's 83 loss-seasons look out of reach, the Pirates appear poised to post the franchise's best record since 2004, and could even go beyond. That will set up quite the storyline for next year, when the Pirates look to avoid 20 straight seasons of finishing under .500.

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PHOTO: Steve Pearce, No. 51 of the Pittsburgh Pirates, celebrates with teammate Neil Walker, No. 18, after Ryan Doumit, No. 41, hit a three-run home run against the Houston Astros during the game on May 8, 2011 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com