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Karstens to the rescue

MILWAUKEE — The highlight of Jeff Karstens’ career so far with the Pirates was his start 11 days after being traded to Pittsburgh midway through the 2008 season. In his second start with his new team, Karstens took a perfect game into the eighth inning against Arizona.

Since then, Karstens’ status in the eyes of management faded fast. He began last season in the starting rotation, but was moved to the bullpen in June when Charlie Morton arrived.

In late November, Karstens, 27, was bounced from the 40-man roster when the Pirates claimed Chris Jakubauskas off waivers. Karstens began the season with Triple-A Indianapolis and went 1-2 with a 7.31 ERA.

When the Pirates needed fresh arms to make spot starts, they brought up Brian Burres and Jakubauskas. Last night, with the pitching staff still in disarray and limited options to choose from at Indy, the Pirates called for Karstens.

The right-hander responded tonight with 6.2 strong innings in the 7-3 victory against the Brewers. Karstens allowed two runs on six hits, walked four and struck out four. He played a huge role in one of the Pirates’ most significant wins this season — it snapped a seven-game losing skid and a 22-game slump at Miller Park.

“I was able to throw everything for strikes,” Karstens said. “My fastball was a little erratic, but I think maybe it benefited me a little bit, not being over the plate so much. They weren’t able just to sit on certain pitches. Just one of those nights when stuff goes well.”

Was this game a chance to prove he belongs?

“I just wanted to come here and pitch well,” Karstens said. “Whatever happens from here, happens. Come here, pitch well, help out the team.”

Karstens did not get a win, but he did make the right kind of impression on manager John Russell.

“Jeff was outstanding,” Russell said. “He kept us in the game. We really, really, really needed it. He stepped up really huge tonight. We’re proud of him.”

The reward: Karstens remains in the rotation (at least, until Ross Ohlendorf comes off the DL) and will start Sunday against the Dodgers.

“I don’t see any reason why not,” Russell said. “The kid deserves it.”

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