2012-07-06 / State/National Sports

Jolly Roger flying high in Pittsburgh

AP Sports Writer

Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Jeff Karstens delivers during the first inning against the Houston Astros in Pittsburgh Thursday. Karstens scattered four hits over eight innings as the Pirates won a 2-0 shutout at PNC Park. 
AP Photo by GENE J. PUSKAR Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Jeff Karstens delivers during the first inning against the Houston Astros in Pittsburgh Thursday. Karstens scattered four hits over eight innings as the Pirates won a 2-0 shutout at PNC Park. AP Photo by GENE J. PUSKAR PITTSBURGH (AP) — 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.

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 righthander, 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.

Deftly mixing his fastball with a curveball that followed orders, Karstens kept the Astros off balance all night. The righthander 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.

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.”

Mets 6, Phillies 5

NEW YORK (AP) — David Wright singled off Jonathan Papelbon with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, lifting the New York Mets to a 6-5 comeback victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday night that preserved R.A. Dickey’s 11-game winning streak.

Marlins 4, Brewers 0

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Carlos Lee doubled and scored in his Miami debut, Mark Buerhle struck out a season-best eight over 7 2-3 innings and the Marlins beat the Milwaukee Brewers to split the four-game series.

Nationals 6, Giants 5

WASHINGTON (AP) — Bryce Harper scored the winning run when first baseman Brandon Belt couldn’t dig out a short-hop throw on a potential double-play ball in the ninth, and the Washington Nationals completed a sweep with a win over the San Francisco Giants on a night of fond memories of the 1924 World Series.

Braves 7, Cubs 3

ATLANTA (AP) — Jason Heyward and Brian McCann each hit a two-run homer in the first inning, helping Mike Minor and the Atlanta Braves beat the Chicago Cubs.

Freddie Freeman and Juan Francisco also connected for Atlanta, which salvaged a split of the four-game series. Minor (5-6) held the Cubs without a hit until the fifth and gave up three runs, two earned, and three hits in 6 1-3 innings overall.

Cardinals 6, Rockies 2

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Lance Lynn struck out seven in six shutout innings, and the Cardinals got two RBIs apiece from Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran.

St. Louis has won four of its last five and 11 of 14 against Colorado. Jason Motte came on with two on and two out in the ninth and retired Carlos Gonzalez on a grounder for his 19th save in 23 opportunities.

Padres 2, Reds 1

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Everth Cabrera hit a bases-loaded single in the ninth inning to give the San Diego Padres a win over the Cincinnati Reds.

Rookie Yasmani Grandal hit a leadoff triple in the ninth against Logan Ondrusek (3-2), who then intentionally walked Yonder Alonso. Cameron Maybin followed with a bunt that bounced high in the air and left no play to load the bases.

Dodgers 4, D-backs 1

PHOENIX (AP) — Scott Van Slyke and Elian Herrera hit solo home runs, and the Los Angeles Dodgers sent the Arizona Diamondbacks to their sixth straight loss.

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