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Pirates choke Cardinals' offense
PITTSBURGH -- Jeff Karstens just made the Pittsburgh Pirates' next roster decision a little tougher.
Karstens made a bid to keep his spot in the rotation with six innings of three-hit ball and Jason Jaramillo had three hits to lead the Pirates over the St. Louis Cardinals 2-0 on Saturday night.
Karstens (1-1) combined with four relievers on a four-hitter. Jaramillo, the Pirates' backup catcher, tied a career high with his third three-hit game and had an RBI single.
The Pirates won for the fourth time in their last five games and beat St. Louis for just the fourth time in the last 14 meetings. The Cardinals lost their fourth in five games.
The Pirates will need to drop someone from the starting rotation and 25-man roster Monday, when Ross Ohlendorf is scheduled to be activated from the disabled list to start that night against Cincinnati after missing a month because of back spasms.
Karstens is the most likely candidate to be moved into a long relief role or sent to Class AAA Indianapolis because Zach Duke, Paul Maholm and Charlie Morton are assured of spots in the rotation. Manager John Russell said Brian Burres deserves to keep starting after pitching a combined 12 1/3 scoreless innings in his last two outings.
Russell smiled when asked who would be the odd man out in the rotation.
"It's a good problem to have," Russell said. "Jeff did a great job and really kept a very good lineup off balance. He kept the ball down and from an angle that made it hard for them to get a lot of good swings."
Karstens, who threw only sinkers and sliders in his 74-pitch outing, said he did not approach the start as if he was pitching for a job.
"I wasn't worried about that," he said. "I was just worried about getting them out."
Octavio Dotel pitched the ninth, earning his sixth save in eight opportunities to complete the Pirates' second shutout of the season.
"We just couldn't get anything going offensively," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said. "You have to give their starting pitcher and relievers a lot of credit. It just wasn't a good day for our offense."
Cardinals rookie Jaime Garcia (3-2) pitched well again but had nothing but a loss to show for it after allowing one run and seven hits in six innings. He walked two and struck out seven. The left-hander has allowed one run or none in five of his six starts this season, lasting at least six innings each time out.
Pittsburgh scored its lone run off Garcia in the second inning when Steve Pearce, Jaramillo and Ronny Cedeno hit consecutive one-out singles. Cedeno's hit deflected off the glove of diving third baseman David Freese.
Jaramillo singled off Mitchell Boggs in the eighth inning to increase the Pirates' lead to 2-0.
St. Louis' best scoring chance came in the sixth, but Ryan Ludwick, who had doubled, was thrown out at home by left fielder Lastings Milledge to end the inning while trying to score on Colby Rasmus' single. Ludwick argued vehemently with home plate umpire Marty Foster that Jaramillo missed on his swipe tag.
"You never see me get that upset unless I know for a fact that I was safe," Ludwick said.
Jaramillo gave a sly grin and a non-answer when asked if he tagged Ludwick.
"The umpire called him out and Marty's a good umpire," the catcher said.
The Cardinals put runners on first and second with two outs in the eighth but Albert Pujols, a career .381 hitter at PNC Park, struck out swinging at Joel Hanrahan's slider to end the threat.
"It was a tough spot because he's the best hitter in the game but I really felt confident I could get him," Hanrahan said.
The Cardinals have been either shut out or held to one run in eight of their 12 losses.