PHILADELPHIA -- Jeff Karstens didn't have his best outing in Monday's series opener against the Phillies, but there's at least one big positive the right-hander can take out of it -- he's healthy.
Karstens allowed six earned runs on 11 hits over five innings in an 8-3 loss to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. He chalked the poor numbers up to pitch selection and location but said he felt fine, health-wise, after making his first start since spending more than two months on the disabled list with shoulder and hip issues.
"It's just the way baseball is sometimes," said Karstens, who struck out four and did not issue a walk. "You come out and feel like you have good stuff. You make pitches, they hit some balls soft for hits; [you make] some bad pitches, they hit those pitches even harder for hits. It was just one of those nights."
Defensive miscues did not help his cause. Pittsburgh, which had committed just one fielding error in its previous 10 games, committed three in the first inning, including two in one play, to help build an early four-run deficit.
Phillies right fielder Hunter Pence knocked in the first run of the game with a single and hustled from first to third on Carlos Ruiz's single to right field. Jose Tabata's throw to third base went wide of Pedro Alvarez, allowing Pence to score. Ruiz tried for second base, and Alvarez's throw went into the outfield. Ruiz went to third and then scored on a single by Shane Victorino.
Tabata erred again on a throw later in the inning, allowing Victorino to score. It marked the first time a Pirate made two errors in one inning since Josh Harrison did so on July 4, 2011, which was also the last time the club committed three errors in one inning.
"We didn't defend the ball very well in the first inning, which kind of complicated things," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Our 'towards' button was off, meaning 'towards where we're supposed to throw it.' That wasn't working very well."
"We were aggressive," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "They started throwing the ball around and started making some mistakes."
The Pirates recorded eight hits on Monday, seven of them off Philadelphia starter Joe Blanton. Tabata earned back a run by hitting a solo homer in the third, and Clint Barmes and Andrew McCutchen chipped RBI singles. Alvarez added two hits and is now hitting .467 with 10 RBIs in his last nine games.
But even though the Pirates scored a run in the third, fourth and fifth innings, the Phillies answered every time. In the fourth, Jimmy Rollins took Karstens deep on a 3-0 fastball for a two-run homer, his fourth homer in as many days.
Hurdle thought that Karstens, despite some struggles, put together some good sequences.
"There's no perfect equation when you send guys down [for rehab starts] -- 'If they do this this and this, they're going to come back and fire up zeros all the way through,'" he said. "So he's healthy. The sooner we get him back in play, the better opportunity he's going to have to get to the point where he's the Jeff we saw the second half of [last] season. So I think there were some positives to pull out of this, although the numbers aren't what you were looking for."
"I think he got out all the jitters that he had," said catcher Mike McKenry, who entered the game in the second inning after Rod Barajas left with a bone bruise in his left knee. X-rays were negative, and Barajas is day to day.
"They came out with a good game plan, and he got in some tough jams early and pitched his way out of it," said Hurdle. "He still gave us [five] strong innings. ... He's Karstens. He's just got to settle down and do what he does."
Ultimately, as Hurdle put it, it just wasn't the Pirates' night. The Bucs have never won a series at Citizens Bank Park, which opened in 2004. To do so they have to win three straight.
"There's a lot of places you can go with what happened [tonight]," Hurdle said. "I think all of us in here, we're just going to go back and get ready to play tomorrow."
Jake Kaplan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.