Friday night in Houston, Pittsburgh's Jeff Karstens needed just 83 pitches to blank the Astros and lift the Pirates into 1st place by percentages points, thanks to losses by the Cards and Brewers. Karstens allowed 5 singles and no walks, with 2 Ks, and threw only 19 balls in his 2nd career shutout. He faced just 30 batters, thanks to a pair of DPs started by the rookies on the left side of the infield, Chase d'Arnaud and Josh Harrison.
- The last 9-inning CG on fewer than 83 pitches was June 12, 2009 by Luke Hochevar (80 pitches, 3 hits, 1 walk, 1 run, 23 balls).
- The last 9-inning shutout on fewer pitches was July 1, 2008 by Aaron Cook (79 pitches, 5 hits, no walks, 21 balls).
- The Astros went 1-3 with runners in scoring position, raising Karstens' BA with RISP to .145 (9 for 62).
- No batter has driven in a baserunner with a hit off Karstens since Chase Utley's ground single on June 3 -- a span of 51.2 IP. In his previous 6 starts, Karstens allowed 9 total runs, on 7 HRs and a pair of groundouts (one was a DP and both were unearned).
- In his last 8 starts (gamelog), Karstens is 5-0 with a 1.26 ERA. He hasn't allowed more than 3 ER in his last 15 starts. He's 8-4, 2.34 on the season, despite allowing 17 HRs in 107.2 IP; all but one were solo shots.
- For a 9-inning game, it was the lowest verified pitch total by the Pirates since Doug Drabek threw an 80-pitch shutout on Sept. 30, 1990, for his 22nd win in his Cy Young Award season.
In other Bucs notes:
- Pittsburgh is 9-1-3 in their last 13 series; the only loss was a 3-game sweep in Cleveland.
- Andrew McCutchen had the biggest hit, a 2-run triple in the 3rd. In his last 20 games, McCutchen is batting .343 with 20 RBI and an OPS over 1.100, and the Pirates are 13-7. McCutchen may be the toughest active RHB to double up; he has just 3 GDPs this year and 12 in his entire 350-game career. His career rate of GDP in 6% of DP opportunities is about half the MLB average.
- Rookie OF Alex Presley scored twice out of the leadoff spot. Presley, who was leading the AAA International League with a .336 BA when called up, is hitting .357 with 11 runs in 14 games, and a .975 OPS.
- Neil Walker had the "GWRBI" with a 1st-inning single, and leads all MLB second basemen with 60 RBI. Walker is hitting a modest .263 and slugging under .400 overall, but .327/.513 with runners on base.
- It was the 6th team shutout of the year for the Pirates (matching their total of last season) but their first in 31 days, since Karstens started a combined 4-hit whitewash of Houston in a 1-0 win.
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