DOUBLE. DIGITS. ABOVE .500. Did anybody really see this coming when the season began with AJ Burnett and Charlie Morton on the DL, when the plan was to platoon Casey McGehee between first and third waiting for Pedro Alvarez or Garrett Jones mess up? Welp, that was Clint Hurdle’s plan…and it’s wroking…it’s working.
Jeff Karstens started his third game last night since coming off the DL and he pitched a monster game against the Astros to help the Pirates win a 2-0 shutout to complete the four-game sweep of the Astros.
Karstens has looked like a completely different pitcher his last 2 outings. No, he still makes a hideous face with his delivery, but for the past week, he’s looked like he’s competing with J-Mac and Burnett to be the ace of the Buccos’ staff. He was about as good as he could get last night going 8 innings and giving up just 4 hits while walking just 1. He struck out a season high 8 Astros thanks to his breaking ball that just destroyed batters by falling off the table. He looked like he could have finished off the complete game shut out but Hurdle played it safe and let Joel Hanrahan handle Hammer Time.
Garrett Jones has been just as hot at the plate the past week and he got it done again on the scoreboard for Karstens last night, getting in on both of the Bucs’ runs. Jones has now hit in 8 of his last 9, racking up 14 hits, 3 BUSHES, 10 RBI and 13 hits, which has his average sitting at a solid .276.
While Karstens was cruising, Jones led off the second with a hard double to deep right field, and Casey McGehee drove him in when he followed up with a double of his own. Jones was right back at the plate in the third with 1 out and the bases juiced. On the first pitch he saw, Jones bombed one straight for the North Side Notch – it looked like a granny – but the hit came up inches short from being a BUSHES shot. If Jones had hit it to any other part of the park, it was gone – he still drove in the Buccos’ second and final run of the game with the sacrifice though.
That was it…the rest of the game was pretty boring. The Astros got one runner past first base the rest of the night with Karstens on the hill, and the Bucco Bats were much better. The Pirates finished the night with just 5 hits and Andrew McCutchen, Pedro, Michael McKenry and Clint Barmes were all 0 for 3.
It doesn’t matter how they did it, all that matters is that the Buccos won their eighth out of their last nine games, and with the Reds losing again, the Buccos have a 2-game lead over the NL Central, with three games to go before the All-Star Game against the Giants’ Zito, Vogelsong and Lincecum. All the Pirates have to do is not get swept and they’re taking the division lead into the break. WOOOOO.
Hoist the Colors.