The Pittsburgh Pirates desperately needed a solid start against the Milwaukee Brewers. Right hander Jeff Karstens gave them what they needed last night when he blanked the Brewers, halting a brutal four-game slide for the Bucs.
Karstens went 7.2 innings, and did not walk a batter before he left with a groin injury. The Bucs starter struck out four.
He also helped himself with a big two-out, one-run single on an 0-2 count in a big fifth inning off Brewers starter Shaun Marcum. The Bucs took advantage of the Beer Makers errors, and when Neil Walker scored on a Michael McKenry double, it was the fourth time this month that the Pirates managed to score first.
Karstens scored from first base after being chased around the bases on a Jose Tabata double. (The Pirates left fielder felt discomfort as he rounded first base and headed to second.)
Travis Snider reached out of the zone with his powerful right hand, and flicked Marcum’s 25th pitch of the inning into left center to score Tabata.
As he picked up his first win against the Brew Crew in nine starts, Karstens kept the bats of Milwaukee off balance with some excellent breaking pitches. The Bucs said Karstens injured his right groin.
The Beer Makers were in business in the eighth, and after former Bucco Nyjer Morgan got an infield hit, it was apparent Karstens wasn’t feeling right. The Pirates brain trust watched as their most effective pitcher lately fired one pitch to Norichika Aoki before getting pulled from the game.
Karstens felt he wouldn’t miss his next start, and thought it was more a painful hip than his right groin.
“When you’re out there on the mound, you don’t know how bad it’s going to be. I think all the tests came back pretty good, at least from my standpoint, I thought. We’ll come in tomorrow and see how it is, but I don’t see it being a big issue. I should be able to go in five days.” Jeff Karstens
The game wasn’t exactly as clean as it appeared.
The Buccos took advantage of a big Brewers error in that fifth inning when Carlos Gomez dropped a leadoff Neil Walker fly ball that got the four-run fifth inning rolling; also, shortstop Jeff Bianchi booted a sure Andrew McCutchen ground ball out. But errors on the basepath cost the Bucs as McCutchen got thrown out stealing.
Pedro Alvarez got picked off second base, but had two more hits. And unfortunately, the Bucs were also in double digits (again!) with ten strikeouts.
But lost in the boxscore might be a play that we don’t see often: With two runners on and Ryan Braun at the plate, the 2011 MVP lifted a ball into shallow right field that first baseman Sanchez went out and caught. In past years, that ball seemed to always drop in. But not tonight.
A win is a win. A starting pitcher hasn’t pitched as well as Karstens did tonight in a long time. (Or at least it seems like it.)
The Pirates are off the schneid with an opportunity to win the series this afternoon. Let’s trust injuries to Karstens and Tabata really aren’t that bad when they arrive for this afternoon’s matinee.