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Kennedy strikes out nine over six innings

There's a lot of talk this time of year about trying to get off to a hot start. For the D-backs' Ian Kennedy and the Pirates' Jeff Karstens, that means starting off on the right foot in the first inning.

Neither right-hander did that in his last outing, and both are hoping to make a better opening statement Tuesday night when the Pirates meet the D-backs at Chase Field.

Karstens surrendered all three of his earned runs in the first inning on Thursday against the Dodgers, the second time he's stumbled out of the gate in two starts. He's allowed four runs in his first two innings and zero in his other nine.

Karstens is hardly getting shelled, though. He allowed one run on three hits in his first start against Philadelphia. Against the Dodgers, he gave up a one-out single and a double to Matt Kemp, hit Andre Ethier, allowed one run to score on a sacrifice fly then two more on consecutive singles.

"It's more a mental adjustment than anything. It's not like I'm out there making bad pitches," Karstens said. "I need to be more mentally focused to make sure to shut down that first. Going out there with more of an edge, as opposed to being relaxed, like I am normally. That's something that might benefit me. I'll go out there and try it and see where it takes us.

"The focus needs to change a little bit."

Kennedy was at least able to overcome his rocky start Thursday against the Padres, picking up his second win in as many outings by striking out nine batters over six innings once he settled in.

His night started off with a triple, an RBI single and another sharp single, certainly not a good sign of things to come for the right-hander. But he regained his composure, allowing only two more hits the rest of the way.

"You just have to work through it," he said. "Just go one at a time. I can't change anything about it, so I'm just going to throw one pitch at a time and try to get this next guy."

Pirates: Bucs seek more security runs
Until the eighth inning on Sunday, the Pirates had yet to score when they've had the lead this season. Manager Clint Hurdle said that obviously needs to change in order to avoid getting his relievers into too many stressful situations. It will also make the club's little mistakes less noticeable over the course of the game.

"That's critical, to give the pitchers a safety net. They haven't had that whole season," Hurdle said. "[Insurance runs] give everyone an opportunity to breathe better. When there's no wiggle room, every movement is critical."

• The 2011 Pirates weren't exactly bashing around the ball, but this year's club is getting outpaced in the power department. Through nine games last season, the Bucs had nine homers. This year? Only four -- one each from Pedro Alvarez, Clint Barmes, Garrett Jones and Michael McKenry.

D-backs: Upton playing through jammed thumb
D-backs outfielder Justin Upton is still playing despite a jammed left thumb. He sustained the injury while sliding into second base to break up a double play in the seventh inning against the Giants on April 8. Upton went 0-for-4 on Monday night and saw his average drop to .212 on the season.

"He's good. It's doing better," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "It's not drastically better, but it is what it is. He needs to be treated every day, and we play every day. That's his treatment: play."

• Injured shortstop Stephen Drew and injured reliever Takashi Saito both worked out at Chase Field on Monday afternoon. Drew took grounders and participated in batting practice. Saito, meanwhile, threw in a short session.

Saito could rejoin the team sometime this homestand, while there is still no timetable set for Drew's return. Gibson spoke with some optimism about Drew's progress.

"He looked phenomenal. You go out there, watch him and go, 'Wow, he's close to playing,'" Gibson said. "The problem is when he sits down. ... He can't go out there, do it, then sit down for a 20-25-minute inning and do it again. He's not as far along as you'd hope he'd be, but he's doing quite well."

Worth noting
• Among Pittsburgh's first seven opponents to start the season, six clubs finished with winning records in 2011 and three advanced to the postseason. That includes the World Series champion Cardinals, whom the Pirates will play when they return to PNC Park on Friday. Comments