Pittsburgh, PA (Sports Network) – Jeff Karstens was excellent over seven-plus innings and Brandon Wood provided ample offense, as the surging Pittsburgh Pirates downed the Houston Astros, 5-1.
Karstens (7-4) allowed just one run on seven hits while fanning three and added an RBI on a well-executed suicide squeeze.
The Pirates, who will look for the sweep of this three-game set on Wednesday, saw Wood go 2-for-3 with a two-run homer and three RBI.
Wandy Rodriguez (6-5) surrendered five runs on eight hits and two walks with six strikeouts over six innings for Houston.
Clint Barmes belted a solo home run for the Astros, losers of five in a row and 13 of their last 15.
With one down in the second, Lyle Overbay singled to right before Wood jumped on the first pitch from Rodriguez, lifting a fastball over the fence in right- center.
Wood struck again in the fourth, lacing a two-out single to score Neil Walker, who had hustled out a double on a bloop to left earlier in the frame.
Barmes made it a 3-1 game a half-inning later with a solo shot to left, which barely cleared the fence.
Walker and Overbay singled to begin the sixth and Wood followed with a walk to load the bases. Michael McKenry pushed one across with a deep sac fly to right before Karstens helped himself, laying down a squeeze, as Overbay hustled home to give the Pirates a 5-1 lead.
In the eighth, Karstens was replaced in favor of Tony Watson after allowing a leadoff single to pinch-hitter Angel Sanchez.
Watson faced just one batter, surrendering a single to Michael Bourn, before being replaced by Jose Veras.
Jeff Keppinger’s force out placed runners at the corners, but Veras struck out the dangerous Hunter Pence and induced Carlos Lee into a groundout to escape the jam.
In all, the Astros were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and left six men on base.
The Pirates have won seven straight over the Astros…Karstens has won a career-best four straight decisions…The Pirates entered Tuesday 1 1/2 games out of first place in the NL Central. It marks the closest they have been to first place this late in the season since July 21, 1997.