Jeff Karstens pitched eight shutout innings as the Pirates finished a four-game sweep of the Houston Astros with a 2-0 victory tonight at PNC Park.
It was the Pirates' first four-game sweep since 2006, when they did it to the Milwaukee Brewers from May 29 to June 1.
In their past 10 games, the Pirates (46-36) are 8-2, while the Astros (32-51) have lost eight consecutive games. Houston was swept in a four-game series against the Chicago Cubs heading into their series against the Pirates.
Karstens was brilliant on the mound, striking out eight batters, one shy of his career high, while walking just one. He surrendered four hits, but not more than one in a single inning. Karstens threw 89 pitches, 62 for strikes.
It was his third start since returning from the disabled list with inflammation in his right shoulder, but it was his best start of the season.
The Astros did not have a baserunner reach third base against Karstens, and only two made it to second while he was on the mound.
Closer Joel Hanrahan issued a pair of ninth-inning walks, but he got Scott Moore to ground into a double play and Chris Johnson to fly out to right field to pick up his 22nd save of the season.
Garrett Jones had a hand in both of the Pirates' runs -- he scored the first and drove in the second on a 1-for-3 night.
Though the Pirates had won the prior three games of the series, Thursday was the first game that they took the first lead of the night.
Jones took a 1-2 pitch in the second inning and nearly drove it into the seats, bouncing it off the Clemente Wall in right field for a double. The double, which came on a 93-mph fastball, was Jones' 13th of the season. Two pitches later, Jones was scampering home after Casey McGehee got the end of his barrel on a tailing slider and sent it into shallow right field for a double of his own. The run gave the Pirates a 1-0 lead.
In his last eight games, McGehee is hitting .368 with three doubles and five RBIs.
Houston starter Bud Norris pitched well, allowing two earned runs on five hits in seven innings, striking out six and walking three. But four of those hits were doubles.
The Pirates added their second run in the third inning. Karstens reached base with a leadoff single and moved to third when Neil Walker doubled to left field. He scored on a deep sacrifice fly from Jones.
The RBI was Jones' 37th of the season, which is tied for third most on the team with Walker.
Michael Sanserino: email@example.com, 412-263-1722 or on Twitter @msanserino. First Published July 6, 2012 1:30 AM