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Pittsburgh at Houston

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Pittsburgh (48-43) «102000010460
Houston (30-63)000000000052

Karstens shutout performance propels Bucs into first

CBSSports.com wire reports
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HOUSTON -- Jeff Karstens shut down the Houston Astros and pitched the Pittsburgh Pirates into a tie for first place in the NL Central.

Karstens threw a five-hitter and Andrew McCutchen tripled and drove in two runs as the surging Pirates opened the second half of the season with a 4-0 victory over the Astros on Friday night.

With the win, the Pirates moved into a tie for first place with the St. Louis Cardinals, marking the latest in a season the team has been in first place since 1997.

Karstens (8-4) needed just 83 pitches to become the first Pirate to win five straight decisions in a season since Matt Capps in 2006. He has an ERA of 2.34 this year, but has been particularly dominant in his three starts against Houston, going 3-0 with an 0.41 ERA.

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"I had an idea it was kind of low, but I didn't know how low it was," Karstens said of his pitch count. "It's just one of those things where I'm just trying to go out there and be efficient and see where it takes me at the end of the night."

It was the fewest pitches thrown in a complete game this season and just the sixth time since 2002 that a pitcher has thrown a complete game with 83 pitches or less, according to statistics provided by the Pirates from the Elias Sports Bureau.

It was the second career complete game and shutout for Karstens, who last did it in 2008, at Arizona.

"It's one of the best pitched games I've seen," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. "You take into account the pitches thrown, 21 out of 30 first-pitch strikes, and then you get the leadoff hitter six out of nine innings ... defense helped him out a couple times, but that was a masterful outing. You talk about throwing strikes, pounding down in the zone, changing speeds, he had it all working tonight."

McCutchen raved about Karstens.

"He was real efficient and got an easy win, pretty much," he said. "He made it look easy, anyway."

Houston starter Brett Myers (3-10) allowed five hits and three runs while striking out a season-high 11 in six innings in his fourth consecutive loss.

Alex Presley opened the game with a single and stole second base. He scored on a single by Neil Walker to give Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead.

McCutchen's two-run triple to center field came in the third inning and scored Presley and Chase d'Arnaud to make it 3-0. McCutchen picked up where he left off before the All-Star break and has 10 RBI in his last five games.

Houston manager Brad Mills liked the way Myers got back on track after his rough start.

"After the third inning, I thought he threw the ball extremely well, a lot like he threw last year," Mills said. "To see the six strikeouts out of the 11 hitters he faced after the triple in the third inning, that was pretty good."

Karstens sailed through the first five innings, facing the minimum thanks to a double play in the second inning after Hunter Pence led off with a single.

" My whole goal when I'm on the mound is to get my team off as quick as possible, get them back in to hit," Karstens said. "A lot of times when you do that, you look up and it's the sixth inning."

Pinch-hitter Chris Johnson singled with two outs in the sixth inning on a grounder to right. Michael Bourn followed with a single on an infield dribbler that Karstens couldn't corral, but Matt Downs grounded into a forceout to allow Karstens to escape the jam.

Jeff Keppinger singled in the seventh inning, but was out at second when Pence grounded into a forceout. Pence stole second base and Carlos Lee singled. Karstens was able to get out of the inning when Brett Wallace grounded into a double play.

The struggling Astros tried to spark their offense with a lineup shuffle on Friday. They moved Lee out of the cleanup spot for just the second time this season and batted Pence fourth with Lee hitting behind him. It didn't help as the Astros, who have the worst record in the majors, dropped their fifth straight and were shut out for the fifth time this season.

"We are trying to figure him out a little bit better," Mills said of Karstens. "He's been throwing the ball extremely well, probably gaining confidence as he goes along."

Garrett Jones walked in the eighth inning and was replaced by pinch-runner Xavier Paul, who advanced to second on a wild pitch before scoring when Lyle Overbay reached on an error by Keppinger to make it 4-0.

Notes

  • The Pirates recalled LHP Joe Beimel [left elbow inflammation] from the 15-day DL on Friday. Pittsburgh optioned LHP Daniel Moskos to Triple-A Indianapolis on Thursday to clear a spot on the roster.
  • Friday was the 15th time in his career that Myers finished with double-digit strikeouts.
  • Houston OF Jason Bourgeois [right quadriceps strain] went 0 for 3 on Friday in his rehabilitation assignment with the Gulf Coast League Astros. He is scheduled to join Double-A Corpus Christi on Saturday.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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 Jeff Karstens is now the first Pirate to win five straight decisions in a season since '06. (Getty Images)
Jeff Karstens is now the first Pirate to win five straight decisions in a season since '06. (Getty Images)

Players of the Game
Pittsburgh

J. Karstens
IP 9.0
H 5
ER 0
BB 0
K 2
Pittsburgh

A. McCutchen
AB 4
R 0
H 1
HR 0
RBI 2
 
Pittsburgh Pirates
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Alex Presley, LF4210000 .357
Chase D'Arnaud, SS5120011 .233
Neil Walker, 2B5011023 .263
Andrew McCutchen, CF4012133 .290
Garrett Jones, RF3000123 .245
    Xavier Paul, PR-RF0100000 .264
Lyle Overbay, 1B3000100 .238
Josh Harrison, 3B4010023 .273
    Brandon Wood, 3B0000000 .204
Michael McKenry, C3000111 .236
Jeff Karstens, P4000033 .097
Totals35463414  
Batting
3B - Andrew McCutchen (4, Myers)
RBI - Neil Walker (60), Andrew McCutchen 2 (56)
SB - Alex Presley (3, 2nd base off Myers/Quintero), Chase D'Arnaud (6, 2nd base off F. Rodriguez/Quintero), Josh Harrison (2, 2nd base off Myers/Quintero)
Team LOB - 9
Fielding
DP - Harrison-Walker-Overbay, D'Arnaud-Walker-Overbay
Pittsburgh Pirates
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Jeff Karstens (W,8-4) 9500020 2.34
Pitches-Strikes - Jeff Karstens 83-64
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jeff Karstens 10-13
Batters Faced - Jeff Karstens 30
Houston Astros
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Michael Bourn, CF4010000 .287
Matt Downs, 3B4000012 .260
Jeff Keppinger, 2B4010000 .300
Hunter Pence, RF3010001 .323
Carlos Lee, LF3010001 .269
Brett Wallace, 1B3000001 .282
Clint Barmes, SS3000010 .247
Humberto Quintero, C2000000 .231
   a- Angel Sanchez, PH1000000 .256
    Carlos Corporan, C0000000 .188
Brett Myers, P1000000 .139
   b- Chris Johnson, PH1010000 .246
    Fernando Rodriguez, P0000000 .000
    Sergio Escalona, P0000000 .000
    David Carpenter, P0000000 .000
   c- Brian Bogusevic, PH1000000 .206
    Enerio Del Rosario, P0000000 .000
Totals3005002  
a-flied out for Quintero in the 8th
b-singled for Myers in the 6th
c-flied out for Carpenter in the 8th
Batting
SB - Hunter Pence (6, 2nd base off Karstens/McKenry)
Team LOB - 3
Fielding
E - Clint Barmes (5, Misplayed grounder), Jeff Keppinger (3, Misplayed grounder)
Houston Astros
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Brett Myers (L,3-10) 65333110 4.86
Fernando Rodriguez 1100010 2.79
Sergio Escalona0010100 2.76
David Carpenter 1000010 0.00
Enerio Del Rosario 1000010 4.39
HBP - Presley (by Brett Myers)
WP - Sergio Escalona (2)
Pitches-Strikes - Brett Myers 111-69, Fernando Rodriguez 15-10, Sergio Escalona 11-5, David Carpenter 9-6, Enerio Del Rosario 12-9
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Brett Myers 5-2, Sergio Escalona 1-0, David Carpenter 1-1, Enerio Del Rosario 2-1
Batters Faced - Brett Myers 27, Fernando Rodriguez 4, Sergio Escalona 2, David Carpenter 3, Enerio Del Rosario 4
Game Information
Attendance - 27787
Game Time - 2:20
Temperature - 73
Umpires - Home - Mark Carlson, First Base - Tim Timmons, Second Base - Eric Cooper, Third Base - Jeff Kellogg