Neil Walker became the first baserunner of the night when he rifled a 3-2 pitch into left for a single, and he mosied into second after a wild pitch. Garrett Jones got the green light on a 3-0 pitch and roped a fastball that was pretty much down the middle into right to plate Walker, and stole second.
Lyle Overbay K'ed on a 3-2 pitch without taking the bat off his shoulder, and Mike McKenry popped out foul to first. Brandon Wood was walked intentionally to get to Karstens, who gave Norris a brief scare when he cracked one, lining out to second. Jeff Keppinger dropped a one-out knock into right. JK cleaned up by getting Brett Wallace to pull a change to first for the 3-6-1 DP.
Jose Tabata started the third with a rocket to right center, but the park held it and Pence took it off the fence. Cedeno K'ed on a foul tip, and McCutch went down swinging. Norris owned the top of the order the first two trips around. Karstens retired the bottom of the 'Stro's lineup in order.
Norris fell behind both walker and Jones 3-1; Walker flew out and Jones singled to left. Jones was caught stealing this time; too bad as Overbay drew a 3-2 walk. McKenry took one to the fence in right center, almost to the same spot JT hit his ball last inning, and again Pence hauled it in. Karstens put down Houston cleanly, although Pence gave the ball another ride, chasing McCutch to the track in center.
Wood also put a charge into the ball before Michael Bourne ran it down at the wall in center. This is a big ball park, especially straightaway, and the last pair of flies by Pence and Wood may well have left PNC. After a K by Karstens, JT lined a single to right. Cedeno whiffed to bring the Astros to bat in the fifth.
JK got the first two guys routinely, then Wallace rolled a single through the right side and went to second on a balk call. Karstens got out of it by whiffing Chris Johnson on a slow curve.
McCutch kept his streak going with a line shot into left to open the sixth. He gave the team a brief scare when the trainers had to come out and look at him after being smacked by a pickoff throw, but he stayed in. Walker followed by punching a slider into left to runners at first and second.
Jones struck out swinging at three pitches out of the strike zone, and Overbay K'ed swinging, too. McKenry rolled out on a swinging bunt. That's twice the Bucs have had a runner on second with no outs and failed to move him up even a station. Karstens put Houston down in order. On to the seventh inning, 1-0 Pittsburgh.
Wood lined one to left; Carlos Lee was there for the sliding grab. Karstens and Tabata bounced out to short. JK tweaked his knee after a pitch to Clint Barmes; after the trainers checked it out, he stayed on the hill nad got Barmes on a fly to center. Pence squared up on his third consecutive shot of the night; this one was a liner that McCutch pulled in on the track in straight center.
Lee bounced a single into left with two away. That was it for JK; Chris Resop took the ball. Karstens went 6-2/3 innings, giving up three hits and striking out three in another outstanding performance. He threw 87 pitches; Clint Hurdle seems comfortable at him getting to about the 90 pitch level now, but not much further. Resop faced Keppinger; three pitches, three strikes, end of inning.
Enerio Del Rosario came on for the Astros. With an out, he walked McCutch on a 3-2 pitch, and lefty Sergio Escalona took the hill. he watched McCutch steal second and roll into third when the throw missed the mark. With the infield in, Walker struck out swinging at a ball in the dirt. Hurdle let Jones face the lefty; he grounded out to second. Another opportunity squandered by the Bucs.
Xavier Paul went to right and Tony Watson came on to face the lefty Wallace; Jason Bourgeois pinch hit and lined out to Paul. Tim Wood climbed the hill next. Johnson rolled a single through the left side of the infield. Wood then walked pinch hitter Matt Downs on four pitches, none of which were particularly close to being strikes.
That brought up Jason Michaels, and Clint Hurdle called on Jose Veras. Michaels got under a curve and flew out to medium center for the second out. Veras did just what you don't want to do; go 3-2 on Bourne. With the runners going, Bourne got a fastball and lifted toward the left field line, but Tabata had room to corral it.
Fernando Rodriguez toed the rubber. He walked leadoff hitter Overbay and McKenry bunted him over. Wood struck out on a nasty 3-2 curve. Paul walked on five pitches. Tabata hit one back to F-Rod, and it was Hanny time again. And he had to face the 2-3-4 hitters of the Astros to close this one out.
He got Barmes on a grounder to third. Pence bounced out to second. Lee lined to short. Six pitches, not a ball out of the infield for save eighteen.
If the Pirates had blown this one, it would have squarely been on the shoulders of the hitters. Presented several chances, they went 1-for-11 with RISP and could't advance runners worth a lick. Striking out eleven times doesn't leave much opportunity to amass productive at-bats. It's one thing to be challenged average-wise; it's quite another to waste at-bats.
Charlie Morton takes on JA Happ tomorrow night.
- With tonight's outing, Jeff Karstens has 14-2/3 straight scoreless innings, and extended his streak without an unintentional walk to 37-2/3 consecutive frames. His record is 4-4 and JK's ERA is down to 2.66.
- McCutch's hitting streak is at thirteen games after tonight's game. Hunter Pence saw his 23 game streak end, even though he hit the ball on the nose.
- The Pirates won their eighteenth road game with the victory over Houston; that's more than they had all last season. They're also at .500 on June 14th, the latest they've been even since 1999.
- Houston has been a field of screams for Pittsburgh recently. The Pirates had lost nine straight and 19 of their last 22 at Minute Maid Park before tonight's win, and haven't scored more than three runs in any of their past 14 games at Houston.