PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) — Thousands of fans have passed through the gates at PNC Park the last two nights to watch the Pirates take on the Boston Red Sox.
And the positive vibes surrounding the Bucs this season got a little better as Lyle Overbay hit a three-run home run Saturday in a 6-4 win. On Friday, the Pirates beat the Red Sox 3-1.
The Pirates have now taken four out of five from the Philadelphia Phillies and the Red Sox in front of a packed PNC Park. Better yet, it’s not just about two good weekends, when you check the standings, the Pirates are sitting two games above .500 at 39-37.
The win also spoiled Tim Wakefield’s Pittsburgh homecoming.
Jeff Karstens (5-4) pitched effectively into the seventh inning as the Pirates tied a season-high by posting their fourth straight victory.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Pirates improved to 14-9 in June, assuring them of their first winning month since June 2009.
The Pirates and Boston finish up their three-game series Sunday at 1:35 p.m.