Via the AP -
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.
“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.”
“Jeff Karstens, Daniel McCutchen, Ross Ohlendorf and Jose Tabata for Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady” is starting to make “Nick Johnson, Juan Rivera, and Randy Choate for Javier Vazquez” and “Mike Lowell for Mark Johnson, Ed Yarnall, and Todd Noel” look good.
Then again, you could probably say that about “Tyler Clippard for Jonathan Albaladejo” too.