Pirates Vs. Astros: Jeff Karstens, Pitching Staff Lead Bucs To 1-0 Victory

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MLB Standings Update: Pirates Just Four Games Out In NL Central

After the completion of all of Tuesday night's games, the Pirates are currently just four games off the NL Central pace. Here are the standings:

Brewers 38-30

Cardinals 38-30

Reds 36-33

Pirates 33-33

Cubs 27-39

Astros 25-43

To fans of ... any other team, that might not seem like much, but for a Pirates fan, this late in the season, it's amazing.

The Pirates have two more games left against the falling Astros, too - Houston is 13 games out of first now, with few signs of turning things around. True, they're getting nice performances from Hunter Pence and Brett Wallace on offense, and Bud Norris (who the Pirates faced on Tuesday) and Wandy Rodriguez have been stable presences in the rotation. There's also a bit of help on the way from rotation newcomer Jordan Lyles, who the Pirates will face Thursday. But generally, the Astros' pitching staff has been very weak.

After the Astros series, the Pirates enter interleague play, and that will be a challenge, particularly when they face the Boston Red Sox. For now, though, they're riding high, and they'll get even higher if they can take a winning record into interleague play.

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Pirates Vs. Astros: Jeff Karstens, Pitching Staff Lead Bucs To 1-0 Victory

Jeff Karstens allowed three hits over 6.2 scoreless innings against the Houston Astros Tuesday, leading the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 1-0 victory at Minute Maid Park. The Pirates are now back to .500, at 33-33.

The win had a familiar shape for Pirates fans - strong pitching, and very little offense. The Pirates managed just six hits, all singles, and five walks. Garrett Jones knocked in Neil Walker in the second inning to drive in the only run of the game. Andrew McCutchen extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a single in the sixth. Bud Norris struck out nine batters for the Astros, mostly using low sliders to fool hitters. 

The Pirates used four relievers in 1.1 innings to get from Karstens to Joel Hanrahan, who pitched a perfect ninth for his 18th save. Those four relievers (Chris Resop, Tony Watson, Tim Wood and Jose Veras) escaped without harm, obviously, but the fact that Clint Hurdle used so many perhaps indicates his level of comfort with his middle relief corps right now.

In any case, the Pirates are back at .500, still just 4.5 games out in the N.L. Central.

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