PITTSBURGH -- Jeff Karstens hadn't pitched seven innings during one of his starts since August. He finally showed some efficiency Saturday night and was rewarded with a win.
Karstens allowed two runs and six hits in seven solid innings to win for the first time in more than a month and the Pittsburgh Pirates roughed up Wandy Rodriguez, snapping a three-game skid with a 7-4 victory over the Houston Astros."He threw the ball extremely well," Pirates manager John Russell said. "His pitch count was very low, and he was extremely efficient. He used his off-speed pitches very well and kept them off-balance. He gave us a quality start."Eric Hinske went 3-for-3 and reached base four times for the Pirates, who had lost six of eight. They are fifth in the NL Central, two games in front of the last-place Astros.Miguel Tejada doubled twice and drove in two runs to extend his hitting streak to an Astros season-high 13 games. Houston has lost eight of nine."That's a guy that has a pretty high ERA [5.19 coming into the game], and he usually doesn't go more than five or six innings," Astros manager Cecil Cooper said. "But we just couldn't get a whole lot going."Rodriguez, conversely, entered leading the NL with a 1.71 ERA. But was tagged for five runs and nine hits in 4 2/3 innings, his ERA climbing to 2.26.Trailing by five heading into the ninth, the Astros loaded the bases against Tom Gorzelanny, prompting Russell to call on closer Matt Capps. He hit Tejada with a pitch and walked Lance Berkman to make it 7-4, but retired Carlos Lee on a grounder for his 10th save.Capps was making his first appearance since being hit squarely on the elbow by a line drive Monday in Chicago."It was very big for me personally," Capps said. "I went through a lot of different emotions when it first happened. Thinking what I thought then, to be able to be throwing two days later and be back out on the mound five days later, it's big for me."Karstens (2-2) threw only 87 pitches, walking one and striking out four to win for the first time since April 21, his second start of the season. Pittsburgh had lost in four of his five outings since."It was only a matter of time," Karstens said. "It was, what, my ninth outing? It was bound to happen sometime. But I think there's still some work to be done."Karstens, who said he threw 19 of 27 first-pitch strikes, produced his fourth quality start of the season. He has been the team's fifth starter this year."I think this all started when I knew every game my job was on the line," Karstens said. "I wasn't pitching well, and it was more of a reality check."Using a lineup that was without three lefty-hitting regulars (Nate McLouth, Adam LaRoche and Brandon Moss), the Pirates jumped on Rodriguez (5-4) immediately.The left-hander walked leadoff batter Nyjer Morgan, and the next four batters singled. Morgan scored on Freddy Sanchez's base hit and Andy LaRoche came around on Craig Monroe's hit.Two batters later, Robinzon Diaz hit a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0."Our pitching's been doing well lately, and we haven't been producing runs like we should be," Andy LaRoche said. "It's great to give them a little cushion there starting off the game."Rodriguez was charged with as many earned runs in that inning as he had in his past four starts combined."I missed my location in the first inning," Rodriguez said. "That is my problem: location."Houston got a run in the third when Tejada doubled in Edwin Maysonet. Jeff Keppinger drove in Lee with a double in the fourth.Two-out RBI singles by Delwyn Young and Diaz in the fifth gave Pittsburgh a 5-2 lead.Pinch-hitter Moss doubled in Jack Wilson, and LaRoche drove in Moss in the eighth to pad the lead to five.
Sanchez has 14 hits in his past 22 at-bats after going 2-for-4 with a walk. ... Rodriguez entered with a 0.88 ERA in night games, also the best mark in the league. ... Monroe has hit safely in all but two of his 13 starts. ... Houston's Brandon Backe allowed two runs in the eighth -- his first appearance out of the bullpen since 2005.