Marlins blanked by Bucs as offense struggles

BY foxsports • July 22, 2012

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Ozzie Guillen has been left speechless by the Miami Marlins' losing streak.

Jeff Karstens pitched seven strong innings, Pedro Alvarez homered and the surging Pittsburgh Pirates handed the Miami Marlins their fifth consecutive loss, 3-0 on Sunday.

Miami (44-51) has scored a total of seven runs during the slide, falling to a season-worst seven games under .500.

"Oh my god, I don't know what to say anymore, to be honest," Guillen said. "I was thinking about it during the game, what to tell the media, because everything I can throw out there to say, I already did."

The Marlins have one RBI hit with a runner in scoring position during their losing streak.

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

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

"I tried to throw something different to get an out, a groundball or something like that," Sanchez said. "But that's what's happening right now."

Sanchez (5-7) allowed three earned runs in his previous two starts, shaking off a McCutchen RBI single in the first.

"Today we got great pitching from Sanchez, very good pitching," Guillen said. "Maybe just one bad pitch."

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 0.43 ERA.

"I was kind of playing whiffle ball out there," Karstens said. "I just think to when I was a little kid, honestly, to make them take unorthodox swings -- really bad swings. That's all I'm trying to do. I'm not trying to blow fastballs by people; I'm just trying to keep people off-balance, and when they do hit the ball hard, hopefully it's right at us."

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 got two more hits to improve his major league-leading batting average to .372.

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

Karstens and 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.

"When Jeff is on, he reads swings well, keeps the ball down, works quick, keeps his fielders in play," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. "And that's what we saw today."

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.

"It was kind of weird, (Saturday) they have four runs (in the fourth inning) when they don't have one hit," Guillen said. "Today, we start the game with two hits and two walks and we don't score... That will tell you the way we're playing right now. The offense has been very down."

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 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.

The Marlins completed a 1-5 road trip.

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. After the game, Guillen expressed doubt Ramirez could play Monday. ... 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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