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Big League Stew

The Juice: Jeff Karstens pitches Pittsburgh into share of first place

Mark Townsend
Big League Stew

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Nine innings, nine items to get you going. Ladies and gentleman of the Stew, take a sip of morning Juice.

1. The Jolly Ranger is flying high: This is really happening. The Pittsburgh Pirates are now locked into a virtual tie with St. Louis Cardinals after Jeff Karstens shut out the Houston Astros, 4-0.  Amazingly, Karstens needed only 83 pitches to toss his second career complete game — a five-hitter that extended his personnal winning streak to five.

"I had an idea it was kind of low, but I didn't know how low it was," Karstens said of his pitch count.

How low was it really? It was the lowest pitch count for a complete game this season and only the sixth time a pitcher has gone the distance with 83 pitches or less since 2002. That's a pretty special outing on a special night for the Pirates organization.

"It's one of the best pitched games I've seen," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. "You take into account the pitches thrown, 21 out of 30 first-pitch strikes, and then you get the leadoff hitter six out of nine innings … defense helped him out a couple times, but that was a masterful outing."

2. The 10,000 Club: The San Francisco and Chicago Cubs welcome the Altanta Braves to their elite club of 10,000 major league victories. And the Braves got there in style, pounding the Washington Nationals 11-1 behind rookie Freddie Freeman and the returning Martin Prado, who connected for a home run in his first game back after a five-week DL stint.

3. He might be human: Miguel Cabrera hit a two-run homer and later collected career hit No. 1,500. That could be the headline, but thanks to a rare off-night from Justin Verlander, it's not. The Chicago White Sox touched up Detroit's ace for four in the third, with Adam Dunn's two-run single being the key hit. They would add one more off Verlander in the sixth, and cruise from there to an 8-2 victory.

4. Here's your sign: New York Yankees catcher Russell Martin made sure he didn't give away any signs after Thursday's debacle. Toronto's offense sent a message back: It's not the signs, it's the bottom of your rotation. Fix that. Blue Jays win 7-1. {YSP:MORE}

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5. Public enemy No. 1 & 2: If Brandon Phillips is the least popular player in St. Louis, how far behind him are the members of the Cardinals' bullpen? After Mitchell Boggs blew the lead in the seventh, Albert Pujols reclaimed it with a big two-run homer in the eighth. That set the stage for Phillips, who delivered a game-winning two-run homer off closer Fernando Salas to wrap up the 6-5 victory and send the cities of Cincinnati and Pittsburgh into frenzies.

"I wanted to do cartwheels," Phillips said. "I thought about doing Pedro Cerrano and carrying my bat around the bases. I was trying to keep it classy."

6. We're not in Wisconsin anymore: The Milwaukee Brewers agonizing road woes continued with a 4-0 loss to the Rockies. Colorado's rookie right-hander Juan Nicasio made their offense disappear, pitching seven shutout innings. He also made Ryan Braun's 23-game hitting streak disappear.

7. Hey guys, break's over: Two games into the second half the Seattle Mariners are still searching for a run after dropping a 4-0 decision to the Texas Rangers. Derek Holland went the distance on a five-hitter Thursday. This time Colby Lewis took a two-hitter into the ninth before faltering and handing off to Neftali Feliz for a two-pitch save.

8. RyDemption: Ryan Dempster's last outing ended rather unceremoniously thanks to a dugout run-in with manager Mike Quade. After eight shutout innings, Dempster may have been ready to boil over again as Carlos Marmol threatened to blow his second consecutive save. But this time Quade came to his rescue, yanking Marmol and putting in lefty Sean Marshall to record the final out as the Chicago Cubs held on to defeat the Florida Marlins, 2-1.

9. Orioles tragic: Home runs from All-Star Asdrubal Cabrera and Grady Sizemore led the Cleveland Indians to a 6-5 victory over the Baltimore Orioles. That extends the O's losing streak to nine.

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