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Sox’s Struggles in Pittsburgh Continue

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Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Jeff Karstens throws in the first inning of an interleague baseball game against the Boston Red Sox in Pittsburgh, Saturday, June 25, 2011. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Jeff Karstens throws in the first inning of an interleague baseball game against the Boston Red Sox in Pittsburgh, Saturday, June 25, 2011. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

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By WILL GRAVES
AP Sports Writer

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Lyle Overbay hit a 3-run homer and the
Pittsburgh Pirates spoiled Tim Wakefield’s homecoming with a 6-4
win over the Boston Red Sox on Saturday.

Jeff Karstens (5-4) pitched effectively into the seventh inning
as the Pirates tied a season-high by posting their fourth straight
victory to move two games above .500 at 39-37.

Joel Hanrahan worked the ninth for his 22nd save, with the
largest crowd in PNC Park history erupting after the final out.
Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Reddick and Jacoby Ellsbury all hit solo
home runs for the Red Sox, but Gonzalez struck out representing the
tying run to end the game.

Wakefield (4-3), making his first start in Pittsburgh in 18
years, gave up five runs on seven hits in six innings, walking four
and striking out two. Boston lost its fourth straight to fall into
second-place in the AL East, half-game behind New York, which beat
Colorado earlier Saturday.

The veteran right-hander _ the oldest active player in the
majors _ moved up a day in the rotation so the Red Sox could let
ace Josh Beckett recuperate from a flu that left him bedridden
earlier in the week.

The converted first baseman was a sensation in Pittsburgh nearly
20 years ago, finishing third in Rookie of the Year voting in 1992
after his signature pitch helped lead the Pirates to within a game
of the World Series. He posted a pair of complete-game victories in
the National League championship series against the Atlanta Braves
that fall.

Wakefield’s win in Game 6 of that series remains the last
postseason triumph for the Pirates, a franchise that hasn’t
finished above .500 since while Wakefield gone on to win two World
Series during his 17 seasons in Boston.

It’s a streak of futility the Pirates are desperate to end, and
they took another step on Saturday by taking one trip through the
lineup before figuring how to handle Wakefield’s tricky knuckler.

Andrew McCutchen singled with one out in the fourth and Neil
Walker worked a walk before Overbay drilled a floater from
Wakefield into the right-field seats to put Pittsburgh up 3-2.
Karstens pushed it to 4-2 three batters later with a single to
center that scored Ronny Cedeno.

The lead grew to 5-2 when Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia
let a grounder go through his legs in the fifth, though Boston drew
back within 5-4 in the seventh behind solo homers by Reddick and
Ellsbury.

The Pirates responded with a home run by Garrett Jones in the
bottom of the inning and Pittsburgh’s bullpen made it stand up. The
Pirates are 35-0 when leading after eight innings this season.

Boston’s nine-game interleague road trip _ which includes a
visit to Philadelphia starting Tuesday _ is off to a bumpy start,
though it’s hard to blame Gonzalez.

The first baseman continued his torrid hitting against National
League pitching. He began the night batting .543 in interleague
play, a number that took a bit of a dip even hitting his 16th home
run of the season and pushing his major league-leading RBI total to
71.

Karstens, thrust into a starting role when Ross Ohlendorf went
down with a right shoulder injury, has arguably become the team’s
most durable starter. He pitched into the seventh inning in each of
his last five starts and grinded through a season-high 109 pitches
against baseball’s top offense, giving up four runs, three earned,
on six hits while striking out two.

Though he struggled a bit with his command _ the three walks he
issued were one more than he allowed all month _ Karstens managed
to avoid the big inning that has fueled Boston’s meteoric rise
through the standings the last two months.

It helped that Karstens didn’t have to worry about facing Boston
designated hitter David Ortiz, forced out of the lineup by the
National League venue.

Ortiz eventually made his way to the plate as a pinch hitter in
the ninth, but grounded out to first following a nine-pitch at bat.

Manager Terry Francona has toyed with the idea of putting Ortiz
at first and moving Gonzalez to right field, but stressed before
the game he wouldn’t do it until he’s sure.

The way his offense is sputtering at the moment, he may
reconsider. The Red Sox have scored a pedestrian 10 runs during
their slide, a number they’ve matched in a single game nine times
this year.

NOTES: Pedroia went 2 for 4 to extend his hitting streak to 10
games. … Wakefield has started on the road against all but three
teams in the majors, Arizona, Washington and the Red Sox. … The
Pirates called up catcher Eric Fryer from Triple-A Indianapolis on
Saturday. When he plays he’ll become the seventh catcher used by
the team this year, the most they’ve used in one season since 1953.
… Pittsburgh improved to 14-9 in June, assuring the Pirates of
their first winning month since June 2009.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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