Giants smoke Pirates in Charlie Morton’s return to the big leagues

It traditionally takes pitchers anywhere from 12 to 18 months to fully recover from Tommy John surgery, which replaces the ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow.

Judging by that timeline, Pittsburgh Pirates righthander Charlie Morton should be just fine.

The 29-year-old made his first MLB start in more than a year, allowing two earned runs in five innings of work. Unfortunately, the Pirates offense went bone dry after an explosive two games, as the San Francisco Giants picked up a 10-0 win Thursday night at PNC Park.

Jun 13, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Charlie Morton (50) throws a pitch against the San Francisco Giants during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Exactly one year after he threw a perfect game against the Houston Astros, Giants righty Matt Cain delivered 6 2/3 scoreless frames to provide the foundation for a rebound performance by the visitors. San Francisco was outscored 20-10 in the opening two games of its only trip to Pittsburgh, but the defending World Series champs looked the part in the series finale.

The Giants (34-31) had 17 hits one night after collecting 15 in a 12-8 loss to the Bucs. San Francisco grabbed a 2-0 lead after two innings Thursday on run-scoring singles by Gregor Blanco and Buster Posey, each of whom had three hits and two RBIs. Joaquin Arias also enjoyed a three-hit night, while Hunter Pence drove in a game-high three runs.

Pence played a role in a bizarre top of the fifth that saw the Giants stretch their lead to 4-0. With runners on second and third and one out, Pence grounded to second baseman Neil Walker, who threw home to get Brandon Crawford in what appeared to be an easy rundown. Instead, Crawford was awarded home plate when umpire Tim McClelland ruled Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez impeded the runner on his way back to third base.

Replays indicated Crawford doubled back well inside the baseline, leaving Alvarez little chance to avoid contact. Nonetheless, the Giants were handed a third run, with Posey advancing to third base. That fact proved important when Andres Torres lofted a sacrifice fly to left, scoring Posey easily when Morton should’ve been out of the inning. Fittingly, Pence was struck by Arias’ ground ball while running the bases to end the frame in strange fashion.

Morton struck out five and walked only one in his return to Pittsburgh, but the Giants accumulated seven hits (six singles) against the sinkerballer. Struggling lefty Mike Zagurski relieved Morton in the literal sense only, allowing five runs on six hits in the sixth as San Francisco batted around. Pence’s three-run homer to center capped the rally.

The Pirates (39-27) picked up only two hits off Cain, a Garrett Jones single in the fifth and Andrew McCutchen’s seventh-inning double. Pittsburgh grounded into three double plays and had three fielding errors in the rout. Walker had an especially rough night, hitting into two twin-killings and committing a throwing error.

BOX SCORE

Pittsburgh welcomes Los Angeles to PNC Park for a weekend series that starts Friday night at 7:05. The Pirates, who are 23-12 at home, will send rookie Jeff Locke to the mound against the Dodgers’ Stephen Fife.

Notes:┬áPrior to the game, the Pirates placed veteran starting pitchers A.J. Burnett (strained calf) and Wandy Rodriguez (forearm soreness) on the 15-day disabled list. Pittsburgh has not yet announced who will start Saturday’s game vs. Los Angeles…41-year-old reliever Jose Contreras was granted his unconditional release. He hadn’t pitched since Memorial Day with back stiffness…Attendance was announced as 22,532, capping a three-game set that drew over 72,000 fans to PNC Park.

Topics: Charlie Morton, Game Recap, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants

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