Jeff Karstens has some fond memories of Arizona's Chase Field. He may be able to recreate some of those good times if he can shake off some first-inning problems.
Karstens tries to get the Pittsburgh Pirates' road game on track this evening as the club continues a three-game series with the Diamondbacks.
The right-handed Karstens has faced the Diamondbacks four times in his career, twice as a starter, in Arizona. The first time he made a start there on Aug. 6, 2008, he came within four outs of a perfect game before Chris Young doubled off him to left. Karstens still faced just two batters of the minimum and logged a 2-0 shutout.
His next start there was also solid, though it resulted in a loss. Taking on the hosting D-Backs on Sept. 19 of last season, Karstens allowed one run over six innings, but was handed a 1-0 loss.
The 29-year-old may have similar room for error in this game and he didn't do himself any favors last time out. Karstens allowed all three of his runs versus the Dodgers on Thursday in the first inning, but suffered a 3-2 setback. He allowed just three hits over his final four innings of work.
"In the first inning his changeup was good, but he got some elevated and they got good swings on it," said Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle. "They put them in places we weren't. After that, he was solid."
Karstens' opponent for that 1-0 loss to the Diamondbacks last year was Ian Kennedy, and the Arizona ace takes the hill again tonight for a rematch.
Facing the Pirates for only the second time in his career, Kennedy gave up just one hit over eight innings and struck out 12 batters. He picked up his 20th victory of the season on that day while matching a career high for strikeouts in a game.
The 27-year-old righty has won both of his starts to begin this season and bested the Padres last time out on Thursday. Kennedy allowed a run over six innings while punching out nine.
Young will try to play the thorn in Karstens and the Pirates' side again tonight after hitting one of three Arizona homers in last night's 5-1 win. Young is hitting .405 on the season and has five home runs and 13 RBI.
Aaron Hill and Gerardo Parra also went deep and Joe Saunders tossed seven innings of one-run ball in Arizona's second straight victory.
"One of the things we talked about was being ready from the very first pitch," said Arizona head coach Kirk Gibson. "These guys are great. Compared to where we were at last year, these guys are light years ahead. They get it. They get how we want to go about it."
Erik Bedard surrendered two runs on three hits and four walks in a five-inning start while Neil Walker knocked in the Pirates' only run as they fell for the sixth time in seven tries on a nine-game road trip.
"I just didn't throw strikes," remarked Bedard after the loss. "I tried to limit the damage and keep the team in the game."
These two clubs split six meetings last season, with Arizona taking two of three at home.