Sep 16, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Charlie Morton (50) delivers a pitch against the Boston Red Sox during the second inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Noted baseball sage Crash Davis once said strikeouts are fascist.
If that’s the case, then Charlie Morton spent his Monday evening defending democracy, inducing 18 ground-ball outs in a strong return to the rotation Monday night. Behind Morton’s typically sinker-heavy outing, the Pirates (22-22) scored their fourth consecutive win, 4-2 over the Miami Marlins, to get back to .500.
Morton, who had surgery to repair a torn hip labrum in the offseason, was activated off the disabled list earlier in the day. The spindly right-hander fit right in with the recent dominance put forth by the starting rotation, following tremendous outings by Gerrit Cole, A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano during a weekend sweep of the Mets.
That trio combined to whiff 32 Mets, with each getting at least 10. Morton fanned just three Marlins in his seven innings, but it was vintage Charlie nonetheless, as he leaned on his darting two-seamer to keep the ball on the ground and his fielders involved.
While the Marlins didn’t make an out through the air, they still banged out eight hits against Morton, seven of them singles.
Miami uber-slugger Giancarlo Stanton caused the most damage, grounding an RBI single in the first and poking an opposite-field homer – his NL-leading 13th – in the third to keep the visitors in it.
However, a pair of “oppo” bombs by the Pirates gave them all the runs they needed to stretch their win streak to four. The first of those homers was struck by an unlikely character, Francisco Cervelli.
Phelps, who resides in Pittsburgh in the winter, was still on the mound in the sixth, with the Marlins (18-28) trailing 3-2. That’s when Alvarez lined his ninth homer of the season to left-center to double the advantage. The impressive solo shot appeared to be a double off the bat, but it kept soaring until it cleared the wall in the deepest part of PNC Park.
After Morton completed his 2015 debut in style, Tony Watson ran into some trouble in the eighth.
The usually reliable lefty allowed a broken-bat single to Marcell Ozuna, giving Stanton an opportunity to tie the game with another longball.
Stanton nearly did just that, turning around an inside fastball, but his shot to deep left field settled into Starling Marte‘s glove on the edge of the warning track. Watson escaped any further trouble, and Mark Melancon pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to close it out.
Although the top three hitters in the Pirates’ lineup went a combined 0 for 11, the next five batters in the order – Marte, Walker, Alvarez, Cervelli and Jordy Mercer – picked up a pair of hits apiece. Cervelli has a team-best .316 batting average after collecting five hits over the past two days.
Game 2 of this series is set for 7:05 p.m. Tuesday, with Pittsburgh’s Jeff Locke getting the start.