Karstens named NL player of the week

Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Jeff Karstens has been named the National League Player of the Week for the period ending July 17th.

Karstens opened up the Pirates' second half on Friday with a complete-game shutout to lead Pittsburgh over the Houston Astros, 4-0, at Minute Maid Park. The six-year veteran was efficient in winning his fifth straight decision, scattering five hits and striking out two over 83 pitches for his second career shutout (previously accomplished on August 6, 2008 at Arizona). He became the first Pirates starter to win five consecutive decisions since Ian Snell from May 20-June 10, 2006.

Houston managed just one hit against the right-hander through the first five innings. Additionally, the California native's 83 pitches were the fewest thrown in a nine-inning complete game in the Majors this season and was the lowest total since Kansas City's Luke Hochevar needed just 80 pitches to defeat the Cincinnati Reds on June 12, 2009. With the gem, the 28- year-old improves to 3-0 in three starts this season against N.L. Central division-rival Astros (22.2 IP, 1 ER, 8 K, 0 BB, 0.40 ERA) and lowered his season ERA to 2.34, which ranks second in the N.L. entering play today behind All-Star Jair Jurrjens (2.26) of the Atlanta Braves.

"It's the best I've felt as far as my delivery and eveything," Karstens said. "I talked to some people and they said it was the most effortless I've looked just pitching, trying to make pitches and not trying to do any more than what I'm capable of and just going out there and having fun like I've been trying to do all year."

In eight starts since the beginning of June, Karstens has gone 5-0 with a 1.26 ERA (eight ER in 57.1 IP) with seven walks and 20 strikeouts, and he has gone at least 7.0 innings in six of those outings. The 19th round pick in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft (New York Yankees) has issued just 18 free passes in 107.2 innings this season, currently ranking fourth in the N.L. in the fewest walks per nine innings (1.642), trailing only Philadelphia Phillies pitchers Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels and Kyle Lohse of the St. Louis Cardinals. This is Jeff's first career N.L. Player of the Week honor.

"It's an honor," Karstens said of the award. "Just for us as a team to be able to get recognition and we had three All Stars this year. To get pitcher of the week means a lot to us, but my biggest goal is to get us farther than what we're doing now."

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