Houston at Pittsburgh

Scoreboard
Houston (32-51)000000000040
Pittsburgh (46-36) «01100000x250

Pirates' Karstens sharp in win vs. Astros

CBSSports.com wire reports
  •  

PITTSBURGH -- Clint Hurdle isn't much for milestones. Still, the veteran manager knows there's something significant about being 10 games over .500 in July, and his Pittsburgh Pirates are there after a 2-0 win over Houston on Thursday night.

"It means we're not going to sneak up on anybody anymore," he said.

Given the way his streaking club is playing at the moment, it might not matter.

More on Astros-Pirates
Related links
More MLB coverage

Jeff Karstens (2-2) scattered four hits over eight innings and the Pirates completed their first four-game home sweep of the Astros since 1979. The right-hander, making his third start since spending two months on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation and a hip flexor, struck out a season-high eight while walking just one.

"He was getting strike one, and with the arsenal he has he can take it a lot of places from there," Hurdle said.

Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee each drove in a run for Pittsburgh, which has won eight of nine to vault into first in the NL Central. Joel Hanrahan pitched the ninth for his 22nd save.

At 46-36, the Pirates have their best record through 82 games since 1992.

"We're confident, not cocky," Hurdle said. "We've worked hard to get to this spot. We're making our way."

And the Astros are making their way home after a miserable 0-7 road trip. Houston has dropped eight straight overall and looked punchless a day after trading slugger Carlos Lee to the Miami Marlins.

Houston managed four singles and didn't get a runner to third base until the ninth.

"It's a tough road trip for us," said Bud Norris, who dropped his fifth consecutive decision. "We're excited to go home. We've got three games before the [All-Star] break. It's a tough little stretch here but we've got to keep playing hard, keep battling and see what we can do."

While the Astros are struggling, the Pirates are rolling behind an offense that has been among the hottest in the National League over the last six weeks.

There were no such fireworks on Thursday, and Karstens didn't need them.

Deftly mixing his fastball with a curveball that followed orders, Karstens kept the Astros off balance all night. The right-hander threw 62 of his 89 pitches for strikes and looked an awful lot like the pitcher who spent the first half of the 2011 season among the NL leaders in ERA.

He tailed off as he piled up the innings last summer and his problematic shoulder raised eyebrows this year. He got knocked around by Philadelphia in his return from the DL on June 17 but followed that up with seven efficient innings in 99-degree heat against St. Louis last Saturday.

It was more of the same against the Astros. Hard-hit balls were scarce as Houston was shut out for the eighth time this season.

"It's just one of those things where you try to bear down and make pitch after pitch," Karstens said. "We were able to throw strikes when we had to."

The Pirates needed Karstens to be sharp after squandering a couple of opportunities to break the game open against Norris (5-6).

Jones and McGehee led off the second with back-to-back doubles to get the Pirates on the board but McGehee was stranded at third. Karstens started the third with his first hit of the season and the Pirates loaded the bases an inning later but could only muster Jones' sacrifice fly.

Another rally in the fifth was stopped short when Drew Sutton was picked off second, the kind of baserunning miscue that's been rare lately for baseball's biggest surprise.

"There are two kinds of people in this world, those who are humble and those who are about to be," Hurdle said. "We've still got work to do."

So do the Astros. Chris Johnson got the start at first in place of Lee and went 0 for 4. Third baseman Matt Dominguez, one of two players the Astros acquired for Lee, went hitless in two at-bats but was clean in the field.

"There's no doubt we want to reverse what's going on," manager Brad Mills said.

Notes

Mike McKenry started at catcher for Pittsburgh in place of Rod Barajas, who continues to deal with a knee issue ... The Astros called up reliever Enerio Del Rosario from Triple-A Oklahoma City to give the weary bullpen some help while sending left-handed starter Dallas Keuchel down for at least 10 days. ... The Pirates open a three-game series with San Francisco on Friday. Erik Bedard (4-9, 4.57 ERA) starts for Pittsburgh against Barry Zito (6-6, 3.84). ... The Astros return home Friday to play the Brewers. J.A. Happ (6-8, 4.81 ERA) faces Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo (6-6, 3.87).

 
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.
 
CBSSports Facebook Google Plus
COMMENTS
Conversation powered by Livefyre
The Pirates' Jeff Karstens allows four hits in eight innings while striking out a season-high eight hitters to beat the Astros. (Getty Images)
The Pirates' Jeff Karstens allows four hits in eight innings while striking out a season-high eight hitters to beat the Astros. (Getty Images)

Players of the Game
Pittsburgh

G. Jones
AB 3
R 1
H 1
HR 0
RBI 1
Pittsburgh

J. Karstens
IP 8.0
H 4
ER 0
BB 1
K 8
 

Related Video

December 19, 2014
Fantasy Update: Andre Johnson (0:37)
December 18, 2014
NFL Mock Draft: Which teams might trade up?
(3:24)
December 17, 2014
Ravens at Texans Preview
(2:46)
December 16, 2014
Fantasy Update: DeAndre Hopkins
(0:42)
Houston Astros
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Jose Altuve, 2B4010000 .303
Jed Lowrie, SS3010101 .256
Scott Moore, RF4010013 .348
J.D. Martinez, LF3000113 .236
Chris Johnson, 1B4000012 .274
Brian Bogusevic, CF3000021 .220
Chris Snyder, C2010100 .193
Matt Dominguez, 3B2000012 .000
   a- Jordan Schafer, PH1000010 .235
    Brett Myers, P0000000 .000
Bud Norris, P2000010 .160
   b- Matt Downs, PH-3B1000000 .168
Totals2904038  
a-struck out for Dominguez in the 8th
b-popped out for Norris in the 8th
Batting
SB - Jose Altuve (14, 2nd base off Karstens/McKenry)
Team LOB - 5
Fielding
DP - Snyder-Altuve
Houston Astros
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Bud Norris (L,5-6) 7522360 4.71
Brett Myers 1000000 3.58
HBP - McGehee (by Bud Norris)
Pitches-Strikes - Bud Norris 108-64, Brett Myers 8-5
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Bud Norris 6-7, Brett Myers 3-0
Batters Faced - Bud Norris 28, Brett Myers 3
Pittsburgh Pirates
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Drew Sutton, LF4010021 .313
    Gorkys Hernandez, LF0000000 .143
Neil Walker, 2B2010200 .276
Andrew McCutchen, CF3000113 .356
Garrett Jones, RF3111001 .276
Casey McGehee, 1B2011000 .247
Pedro Alvarez, 3B3000024 .234
Michael McKenry, C3000011 .240
Clint Barmes, SS3000001 .202
Jeff Karstens, P3110000 .083
    Joel Hanrahan, P0000000 .000
Totals2625236  
Batting
2B - Drew Sutton (9, Norris), Neil Walker (17, Norris), Garrett Jones (13, Norris), Casey McGehee (11, Norris)
SF - Garrett Jones (3)
RBI - Garrett Jones (37), Casey McGehee (26)
CS - Drew Sutton (1, 3rd base by Norris/Snyder), Neil Walker (2, 2nd base by Norris/Snyder)
Team LOB - 5
Fielding
DP - Barmes-Walker-McGehee, Walker-Barmes-McGehee
Pittsburgh Pirates
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Jeff Karstens (W,2-2) 8400180 3.94
Joel Hanrahan (S,22) 1000200 2.45
WP - Joel Hanrahan (2)
Pitches-Strikes - Jeff Karstens 89-62, Joel Hanrahan 15-5
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jeff Karstens 3-12, Joel Hanrahan 1-1
Batters Faced - Jeff Karstens 28, Joel Hanrahan 4
Game Information
Attendance - 21386
Game Time - 2:22
Temperature - 87
Umpires - Home - Manny Gonzalez, First Base - Greg Gibson, Second Base - Gerry Davis, Third Base - Phil Cuzzi