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Pirates beat Marlins 3-0 for 5th straight win

Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Jeff Karstens delivers during the first inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins in Pittsburgh, Sunday, July 22, 2012. Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Jeff Karstens delivers during the first inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins in Pittsburgh, Sunday, July 22, 2012. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
July 22, 2012
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PITTSBURGH—Jeff Karstens pitched seven crisp innings, Pedro Alvarez homered and the surging Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Miami Marlins 3-0 on Sunday for their fifth consecutive win.

Pittsburgh completed its fourth sweep of the season -- all at home -- while matching its longest winning streak since Sept. 17-22, 2010. The Pirates (54-40) remained a half-game behind NL Central-leading Cincinnati.

Miami has lost five straight, scoring a total of seven runs during the slide.

Alvarez's fourth homer in his last six games and No. 21 for the season came after Casey McGehee led off the seventh with a double, making it 3-0.

Karstens (3-2) allowed five hits, struck out three and walked two. He has allowed one run in three home starts this season for a sparkling 0.43 ERA.

Jared Hughes worked a perfect eighth and Joel Hanrahan retired the Marlins in order for his 28th save in 31 opportunities. Alvarez went 2 for 3 and Andrew McCutchen collected two more hits to improve his major league-leading batting average to .372.

The Pirates have won 21 of their last 25 games at PNC Park to run their home record to a baseball-best 32-14.

Karstens and Marlins starter Anibal Sanchez cruised through the middle part of the game. Sanchez retired 12 straight from the end of the second until a two-out single by McCutchen in the sixth, and Karstens sent down 15 of the next 16 he faced after a rocky first inning.

Karstens walked two and allowed two infield singles in the first, but Miami did not score. Jose Reyes was picked off first and Greg Dobbs flied out to end the inning.

Justin Ruggiano's single was erased by a double play in the fourth, and the Pirates benefited from some breaks in the seventh.

Logan Morrison led off with a single and stole second. Dobbs' sinking liner to left-center with one out was initially ruled a diving catch by Alex Presley. But the umpires conferred after Miami manager Ozzie Guillen came onto the field to argue, and they ultimately awarded Dobbs a single.

But Morrison remained at second base, thinking he needed to tag. The Marlins pleaded their case to no avail, and Omar Infante grounded into a double play on the next pitch to end the inning.

Sanchez (5-7) allowed three earned runs in his previous two starts. McCutchen had an RBI single in the first, but Sanchez was cruising again until the seventh.

Miami (44-51) is a season-worst seven games under .500.

NOTES: Fourteen of Alvarez's 21 home runs this season have come during his 29 day games. ... Miami 3B Hanley Ramirez did not start for the third consecutive game while he recovers from an infection resulting from a cut on his right hand. His hand remained heavily wrapped in the clubhouse prior to Sunday's game. ... The Marlins return home to face the Braves on Monday, the start of a stretch of seven games over 11 days against them. ... Pittsburgh continues its homestand against the Chicago Cubs on Monday. The Pirates' next 10 games are against the Cubs or Houston Astros -- teams that had two of the three worst records in the majors entering Sunday. Monday also begins a stretch of 13 straight games against NL Central teams.

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