The Pittsburgh Pirates got a great start from right hander Jeff Karstens tonight in game one of a double header against the Milwaukee Brewers. However, the Pirates also failed to take advantage of their opportunities at the plate, which combined with a bullpen implosion in the late innings, gave the Brewers an 8-1 win.
Karstens got off to a good start in the first inning, getting two strikeouts looking, including Prince Fielder to end the inning. He allowed a leadoff single in the second, and a two out double in the third, but escaped without any damage. That wasn’t the case in the fourth inning.
With two outs, Karstens gave up a single to Yuniesky Betancourt. That was followed by a ground rule double to catcher George Kottaras. After an intentional walk loaded the bases, Karstens gave up a two RBI single to pitcher Chris Narveson, before retiring Nyjer Morgan to end the inning.
Aside from helping himself out with the two RBI single, Narveson did a great job shutting down the Pirates through 5.1 innings. Josh Harrison legged out a one out triple in the first inning, after Ryan Braun misplayed a ball that bounced off the wall and away from him back toward the infield. However, Narveson stranded him at third. Jose Tabata led off the third with a double, but Narveson retired the next three batters, escaping the threat again. The only other threat came with two outs in the fifth, when the Pirates put two on for Andrew McCutchen, only for Narveson to get a fly out to center.
Narveson ended his day in the sixth inning after an issue with the nail on his left middle finger with one out in the inning. He threw 85 pitches, 53 for strikes, and gave up five hits and one walk in 5.1 shutout innings, with three strikeouts. He was relieved by Kameron Loe, who gave up a two out double to Ronny Cedeno, but continued to shut down the Pirates’ opportunities.
After giving up the two runs in the fourth inning, Karstens went back on cruise control with three more shutout innings. The only base runner was a hit batter to lead off the seventh, but Karstens had no trouble retiring his final three batters. He finished with 103 pitches, 65 for strikes, and allowed just the two runs on six hits with a walk and five strikeouts. It was just the second time this season that Karstens finished with over 100 pitches, with the only other time coming on June 25th against the Boston Red Sox.
Things fell apart for the Pirates in the top of the eighth inning. Tony Watson got Ryan Braun to ground out to start off the inning, then struck out Prince Fielder looking. Corey Hart followed that by hitting a two out single off the glove of a diving Steve Pearce. The ball deflected off of Pearce, and to the left of Ronny Cedeno as he was running toward the third base side to try and back Pearce up. Hart scored from first on the next at-bat when Betancourt doubled off the wall. Watson issued an intentional walk to pinch hitter Casey McGehee, bringing up left hander Craig Counsell. Counsell lined one over the head of a jumping Ronny Cedeno, bringing in the second run of the inning. The Brewers scored two more off of a double to right-center field by Jonathan Lucroy, falling just out of Andrew McCutchen’s reach, making the score 6-0.
Ryan Ludwick got the Pirates on the board with a blast to left in the bottom of the eighth inning, his first homer as a Pirate. The story of the day for the Pirates was their inability to take advantage of opportunities, especially early in the game. They left eight runners on base, and went 0-for-8 at the plate with runners in scoring position. Joe Beimel capped off the night by giving up two runs in the ninth inning on a two run homer by Ryan Braun.
Game two between the two teams will see Pirates’ right hander Brad Lincoln going up against Brewers’ right hander Zack Greinke.