for this game

Karstens flirts with perfection as Pirates top D-Backs

Aug 6, 2008 - 11:54 PM PHOENIX (Ticker) -- After his first inning, Jeff Karstens thought it would be a long afternoon. Instead, it nearly was a perfect day.

Karstens carried a perfect game into the eighth inning, helping the Pittsburgh Pirates edge the Arizona Diamondbacks, 2-0, on Wednesday

Karstens (2-0), who was acquired from the New York Yankees on July 26, came within four outs of throwing the first perfect game in the franchise's 122-year history and the 18th in major league history.

The 25-year-old righthander retired 23 straight batters before Chris Young drilled a 1-1 hanging curveball down the left field line for a two-out double.

"It was one of those things and he (Young) stayed on a pitch and hit it down the line," said Karstens, who threw six scoreless innings against Chicago on Friday in his first start as a Pirate. "Major league hitters are going to do that."

However, his start was inauspicious as he allowed a pair of deep fly balls to Orlando Hudson and Conor Jackson.

"After the first inning, I thought it was going to be a long day," said Karstens, who was acquired in the deal that sent Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte to New York. "They hit all those balls hard. Sometimes it's better to be luck than good."

"Obviously he was outstanding," Pirates manager John Russell said. "No hitter in the eighth and he threw the ball as good as he can throw it. That is what he is capable of."

Ironically, losing pitcher Randy Johnson (9-8) - a former teammate of Karstens - threw the last perfect game in 2004 against Atlanta. Karstens left his former Yankees teammate thoroughly impressed.

"Jeff pitched outstanding," Johnson said. "I got to see him a little bit when he was in New York on that shuttle up and down (from the minors to the majors). You got to see him pitch and he opened a lot of eyes."

Karstens, who also had a pair of hits, kept the free-swinging Diamondbacks on their heels with an array of breaking balls and off-speed pitches, throwing 72 of 113 pitches for strikes and reaching a three-ball count just three times. However, Young ended Karstens' bid to become the first Pirate to throw a no-hitter since Francisco Cordova and Ricardo Rincon combined on a 10-inning no-hitter against Houston on July 12, 1997.

He settled for a two-hit shut out and his first complete game in his 11th major league start.

Karstens came back out for the ninth and issued his first walk to Augie Ojeda but snagged a grounder from Tony Clark to start a 1-6-3 double play. After a single by Stephen Drew, Karstens got Hudson to ground out to end it.

"You have to give him credit," Arizona manager Bob Melvin said. "It wasn't overpowering, but he kept that ball out from over the middle of the plate, mixed it up and changed it up as the game went along."

It may not have been easy, but Karstens sure made it look so. The Diamondbacks had little to speak of in terms of close calls before Young's double.

Mark Reynolds, who had two of the hardest-hit balls off Karstens. He drilled a long fly ball to center field in the fifth that forced Jason Michaels to the warning track. And, in the eighth, after Karstens got Chad Tracy to fly out to center, Reynolds hit a hot shot to third that Chris Gomez bobbled before throwing him out by a step.

Young then spoiled the quest for perfection by pulling the hanging breaking ball down the left field line.

Karstens was handed a 2-0 lead thanks to a solo homer from Freddy Sanchez in the fourth and an RBI double from Doug Mientkiewicz in the eighth.

A future Hall of Famer, Johnson yielded two runs and seven hits in 7 1/3 innings and was denied his 294th career win.