PITTSBURGH (AP) - Jeff Karstens has repeatedly gone on record that he's willing to pitch whenever and in whatever role.
His performance is saying he wants to remain in the starting rotation.
Karstens allowed four hits in seven shutout innings, but Chris Young hit a two-run homer off of Chris Resop in the eighth, and the Pittsburgh Pirates missed out on a rare chance to move above .500 with a 2-0 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday night.
Young pulled a 2-0 pitch from Resop (2-2) down the left-field line just inside the foul pole for his 12th homer of the season. Reliever Micah Owings (2-0) legged out a one-out infield single before Young's hit.
``He had excellent command,' Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Karstens. ``He threw all of his pitches, was able to add and subtract to his pitches and had a changeup that was very effective against left-handers. He also threw first pitch for strikes. You saw everything you want from a starting pitching.'
Four Arizona pitchers combined for a five-hit shutout and the Diamondbacks snapped a three-game losing streak.
Karstens continued to shine as Pittsburgh's fifth starter after beginning the season in the bullpen.
In his past four home starts, Karstens has allowed three runs in 25 2-3 innings (1.05 ERA) - but he has earned a win in only one of those outings.
Karstens stepped into the rotation in mid-April when Ross Ohlendorf went on the disabled list. With Ohlendorf having progressed to the bullpen-throwing portion of the return-to-pitching progression, a decision eventually will loom.
Also, former first-round pick Brad Lincoln has allowed two earned runs or less in six of his past seven starts for Triple-A Indianapolis.
It's going to be difficult, however, to justify removing Karstens from the rotation.
``I didn't feel so good the first three innings - I had a lot of guys on,' said Karstens, who retired 14 of his final 15. ``Last year, though, I would have crumbled and we would have had an early deficit but I'm feeling more comfortable this season and a more confident, too.'
Josh Collmenter matched Karstens, continuing his stellar rookie season by pitching five-plus shutout innings. Joe Paterson, Owings and David Hernandez finished up the Diamondbacks' sixth shutout of the campaign by allowing only one hit in four innings.
Two days after allowing five runs without retiring a batter, Hernandez earned his second save with a perfect ninth.
After holding opponents to a .208 average and having a 2.34 ERA in May, Arizona's bullpen came in to Thursday having allowed 18 earned runs in 19 June innings.
``(Blown saves) are going to happen sometimes,' Owings said. ``But our guys down there, we've got a great bullpen and a great staff, and it's a long season and you'll go through some ups and downs.'
The Pirates (30-31) won four of their previous five and six of eight. But they missed out on a sweep - and on an opportunity to move above .500 this late in the season for the first time in 12 years.
Young, Justin Upton and Miguel Montero each had two hits for Arizona, which had lost five of eight since winning 15 of 17.
Young, who has a six-game hitting streak, homered for the second time in the series.
``I think he's getting better at what kind of pitch he wants to hit in that situation,' Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson said. ``He put a good quick swing on it, and it was big.'
Collmenter allowed four hits and two walks with four strikeouts. He has a 1.12 ERA in 48 1-3 innings (1.12 ERA), having allowed only four earned runs in six starts. He has pitched 14 consecutive scoreless innings.
``He's been a challenge for everybody so far,' Hurdle said. ``He's made a statement. If you look at the batting average against coming in, it was way over .200 (.158).
``It's hard to square up balls when a guy is throwing strikes low in the zone with that kind of a downhill plane on them.'
The Pirates' Andrew McCutchen drew a walk with two outs in the first and went to third when Neil Walker followed with a single. But he was the only runner to advance that far for either team until Young's homer.
For the second consecutive game, however, two starters had exceptional outings that resulted merely in no-decisions. Wednesday, Paul Maholm and Zach Duke combined to allow one run in 13 combined innings.
Notes: Karstens intentionally walked No. 8 hitter Gerardo Parra in the second, the first batter to walk against him in 26 innings. Karstens did not walk another batter in the game. ... Aug. 15, 1999 is the last time Pittsburgh has had a winning record this late in the season. ... In two career starts against Arizona, Karstens has pitched 16 scoreless innings.
The Associated Press News Service
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