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By Chad Carlson
Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
After an exciting game on our nation’s birthday that saw the Pirates overcome three errors for a victory over the Houston Astros yesterday afternoon, the Buccos were back in action tonight for the second game of the series against their N.L. Central rivals.  The Pirates were finally able to surge past the two-game over .500 mark with the win yesterday, while the Astros’ season continued to fall apart with the loss. 
Tonight was more of the same, as the Pirates got another quality start from their pitcher, timely hitting from somewhat unlikely sources, and their bullpen shut the door on any chance of a comeback as the Buccos beat the Astros by a final score of 5-1 this evening at PNC Park.
Jeff Karstens was spectacular on the mound for Pittsburgh, as he’s been all year.  It’s hard to believe this guy was supposed to be a long-reliever out of the bullpen before the season began.  Tonight, he gave up just one earned run on seven hits through seven innings of work.  He notched his seventh victory of the season, while lowering his ERA to a miniscule 2.55.
Karstens’ only blemish, and the Astros’ only sign of offensive life, came in the fifth inning when Clint Barmes blasted a solo homerun to deep left field.  Barmes had two hits on the night to lead Houston.
During this remarkable run the Pirates have been on this season, there have been a number of unlikely heroes.  Tonight, it was Brandon Wood’s turn to lead the club, and that’s just what he did, going 2-3 with a homerun and three RBI’s. 
The Buccos jumped on the board first in the second inning.  After Lyle Overbay doubled, Wood crushed a homerun to deep right center, giving Pittsburgh the early 2-0 advantage.  Brandon would capitalize again in the fourth inning with an RBI single to shallow center field, scoring Neil Walker from third.
The Pirates put two more runs on the board in the sixth, which seemingly put the game out of reach for the Astros.  After Walker and Overbay reached on singles, Wood forced a walk to load the bases.  Michael McKenry smacked a sacrifice fly, scoring Walker.  Then, in one of the more surprising plays that Clint Hurdle has called this season, Karstens pulled the suicide squeeze, allowing Overbay to score from third base.  When all was said and done, the Pirates had a 5-1 lead at the end of the inning, which would ultimately be the final score.
The bullpen did a great job tonight as usual.  Jose Veras and Chris Resop took over for Karstens in the eighth and ninth innings respectively, setting the Astros down without so much as a whimper. 
The Pirates continue to impress. Granted, this is a team that the Buccos should beat relatively easily.  After all, the Astros have a similar record to what the Pirates had last year at this point in the season.  But the fact is, the Pirates are beating the teams they should…and the teams they shouldn’t.
They don’t have letdown series (minus the Cleveland series).  They go on the road and beat the Blue Jays, split with the Nationals, and now come home and take at least two from the Astros.  The Pirates are playing like a team that is in a divisional race…and they are in a divisional race, as a matter of fact.
Neil Walker and Lyle Overbay continue to heat up with two hit games again tonight.  Matt Diaz had three hits to lead the team, while Wood had a huge game, showing that pop in his bat that seems to show up at the most opportune times.  And the starting pitching led the way again tonight.  Jeff Karstens continues to be one of the biggest surprises in the National League this year.
With the victory tonight, the Pirates improved to four games over .500 this late in a season for the first time since 1992, which, of course, was the team’s most recent winning season.
The Pirates will now aim for the sweep of the Astros tomorrow evening at PNC Park.  Charlie Morton will make the start for Pittsburgh against Houston’s Bud Norris.
Record Vs. Astros: 7-1
Record Vs. N.L. Central: 18-10
Home Record: 21-20
Overall Record: 45-41
And…
As Always…
Let’s Go Bucs!