Jeff Karstens attempted to battle through a left groin strain on the mound on Friday in Milwaukee, but the decision proved to be costly to the club.
During the five days of rest, Karstens worked with the Pirates staff and recreated game adrenaline to test out the injury. The right-hander shortened his side session in order to not aggravate it. He was also monitored and said he was fine to take the ball against the Brewers tonight. After exiting the 25th with the groin injury after seven-plus innings, Karstens was only able to retire a batter tonight, which eventually hurt the club as they fell 9-3.
From the get-go, it looked as if Karstens wasn’t quite himself.
Nyjer Morgan lead off the bottom of the first inning with a double ripped down the third baseline. Rickie Weeks followed with a base knock to right field. Karstens was able to get Ryan Braun swinging for the first out, but Weeks swiped second base. Aramis Ramirez roped a two-run single to left field to snap the club’s consecutive scoreless streak. Not since the sixth inning of Monday’s loss to St. Louis had the Pirates pitching staff allowed a run.
But the runs didn’t stop off Karstens. His next batter Corey Hart took a 1-2 curveball to left field for a two-run homer. Karstens allowed a fifth hit to Jonathan Lucroy before the training staff came out to check on him. The right-hander was pulled from the game, and Manager Clint Hurdle elected to go with rookie Kyle McPherson.
Overall, Karstens was charged with four runs on five hits over just 0.1 innings with a strikeout.
After being evaluated by the training staff, Karstens was diagnosed with a right hip flexor strain. With the rosters expanding tomorrow, the club could look at giving Kyle McPherson the opportunity to spot start if Karstens is not 100 percent. Kevin Correia also could step in if needed. He followed McPherson on Friday and pitched four scoreless frames in relief.
McPherson Gives Up First Major League Run in Second Appearance
McPherson ended the first inning after Karstens was removed and went on to toss another frame. Overall he allowed a run on a hit with two walks and three strikeouts. McPherson threw 45 pitches, 27 for strikes. The run was his first earned in his Major League career. He previously tossed two scoreless frames in his big league debut in San Diego.
McPherson warmed up and inherited a runner on base. While facing Carlos Gomez, Lucroy swiped second and advanced to third base on the throwing error by Michael McKenry. The catcher attempted to get the runner, but his throw sailed into center field allowing Lucroy to move up. After striking out Gomez, McPherson allowed a free pass to shortstop Jean Segura. The right-hander was able to leave both runners stranded after getting a groundout to end the frame.
In his second inning of work, McPherson struggled with the walks. After throwing 32 pitches, Hurdle elected to shut him down and go with Kevin Correia in long relief.
Morgan led off the second inning with a base hit up the left side. McPherson lost control of his curveball and plunked Weeks to put two runners on and no outs. After retiring Braun, Ramirez drew the second free pass of the inning to load the bases. McPherson threw a breaking pitch to McKenry, which hit off his foot and sailed behind the backstop to allow a run to score. A second hit by pitch by McPherson in the frame reloaded the bases.
McPherson battled against Lucroy in a 10 pitch at-bat, but was able to get him to chase on a 95 mph fastball. The right-hander relied on his fastball in his next at-bat as well and got Gomez to chase swinging on three straight heaters to end the inning.
Hurdle Believes Team Can Finish
Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle believes the team has it in them to put together a strong winning streak to finish out the season for a playoff push. The club entered game action just a half game behind St. Louis for the second spot in the National League Wild Card spot.
Hurdle was a part of a Colorado Rockies team in 2007 that flirted around .500 for most of the season, but were able to put together a strong streak that pushed them into playoff baseball. Those Rockies won 11 straight in September and won 21 of 22 games leading up to the World Series.
Hurdle believes that this club can do something similar.
“This team has it in them,” Hurdle said. “If you look at our season, we’ve had some really good stretches where we ran off a high number of victories. 15 out of 20, something along those lines. We’ve done it. We have the people and the personnel to do it.”
“More often than not, you get a really good start. More often than not, you answer with two out hits and score runs. You play good defense. When your starter throws a shoe, someone in the bullpen or a handful of guys shut it down from there, and your offense sparks. It’s a perfect storm. Your confidence builds. The ability to play in the moment increases. It’s just getting back to that place where you’re six. You’re playing in the backyard. That’s something we need to recapture. It’s something we had this year. And we know it’s something in here.”