The Pittsburgh Pirates continued their winning ways on Thursday, completing a four-game sweep of the Houston Astros with a 2-0 victory. Jeff Karstens made his third start since returning to the rotation at the end of June, and he was absolutely dominant against the woeful Astros' lineup. Karstens had a rocky first start in his return, but rebounded with a quality outing this past weekend against the Cardinals. He took it up a notch on Thursday for his second straight win, striking out eight and allowing just four hits in eight shutout innings.
Joel Hanrahan came on in the ninth and preserved the shutout, although not entirely without drama. The Hammer walked two batters in the ninth but had the leadoff walk erased by a Scott Moore double play. A Chris Johnson flyout ended the game and put the Bucs 10 games over .500 at 46-36.
Houston's Bud Norris was not bad himself, but the Pirates managed a run in the second and third inning to give Karstens all the cushion he would need. Garrett Jones led off the second with a double and was immediately brought home by Casey McGehee, who followed Jones' double to right for the opening run. Karstens helped himself one inning later by scoring the second run of the night on a sacrifice fly by Jones. Karstens led off the inning with a single and was moved to third on a Neil Walker ground-rule double, setting up the sac fly.
With the Astros departing bruised and battered, the San Francisco Giants now come to PNC Park for the final series before the All-Star break. Erik Bedard and Barry Zito will pitch in Game 1 on Friday night.