The Pirates delivered a complete performance Saturday night: Timely hitting, a good effort from their starting pitcher and impressive defense.
They also took advantage of an incomplete night, at least on defense, by the Milwaukee Brewers, capitalizing on a big inning that helped end their four-game losing streak.
The Pirates scored four runs in the fifth inning on the way to a 4-0 win against the Brewers at PNC Park, stopping their run of four consecutive losses and evening the series at one game apiece.
"Every game is really meaningful now," starter Jeff Karstens said. "At the end of the day it's all about getting wins."
The Pirates have lost eight of their past 12 games, but they picked up a game on the St. Louis Cardinals in the wild-card race after the Cardinals lost to the National League Central-leading Cincinnati Reds, 8-2.
Karstens pitched seven-plus innings of scoreless ball, but exited in the eighth because of what he said was pain in his right hip. He reached for his groin at the conclusion of his delivery and left the game after manager Clint Hurdle and a trainer examined him.
Karstens said the injury was not as bad as what he experienced in June, when he tweaked his hip while rehabbing his shoulder. He does not expect to miss a start.
"When you're out there on the mound, you don't know how bad it's going to be," he said.
A costly error by Carlos Gomez opened the door for the Pirates in the fifth. Gomez charged toward the infield to catch Neil Walker's pop fly, but dropped the ball. Michael McKenry then doubled to left-center field, scoring Walker and giving the Pirates a 1-0 lead.
Karstens hit a two-out, two-strike pitch from Brewers starter Shaun Marcum back up the middle, scoring McKenry from second, and Jose Tabata's double made it 3-0.
Travis Snider singled to score Tabata and Andrew McCutchen reached on an error, but he was caught stealing with Garrett Jones at the plate to end the inning.
"We were able to string together a pretty good inning," Hurdle said. "We took advantage of some situations as well. We swung the bats."
Tabata left the game after the fifth because of discomfort in his left groin. He experienced soreness in his left quadriceps and hip previously this season.
Tabata said he first felt the pain when he stepped on first base.
Karstens retired the minimum through the first four innings. The only runner he allowed, a single to Aramis Ramirez, was erased when Corey Hart grounded into a double play. Karstens needed only 39 pitches to breeze through four innings.
In the fifth, Karstens worked around a leadoff double by Ramirez to retire the next three batters, two of them on strikeouts. He threw his curveball inside to the seven right-handed position players in the lineup, and they often watched it or swung over it.
"You saw two guys out there tonight that were just pitching," Hurdle said. "Changing speeds, location and command are their best weapons. You don't need the radar guy because they can get outs efficiently. Jeff tonight gave us the start that we did need."
Karstens (5-3) allowed seven hits and struck out four without walking a batter and has pitched at least seven innings in each of his past three starts.
After he left in the seventh, Tony Watson and Jason Grilli combined to strand two runners.
Ryan Braun drove a ball to the wall in right-center field with two outs in the first, but Snider made a leaping grab, crashing into the wall as he did so.
Pedro Alvarez doubled off the wall in right with two outs in the second and McKenry drew a walk. After the first pitch to Clint Barmes, Martin Maldonado threw to second and picked off Alvarez, who tried to get back to the base standing up rather than sliding, to end the inning. Hurdle briefly argued with second base umpire Paul Nauert after the play.
Marcum (5-4) made his first start since June 14 after spending the past two months on the disabled list because of tightness in his right elbow. He pitched five innings and allowed four runs, none of which were earned, on five hits.
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published August 26, 2012 4:00 AM