Charlie Morton Shoulders Load As Pittsburgh Pirates Avoid Brewers Sweep


Jun 10, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Charlie Morton (50) pitches to Milwaukee Brewers second baseman Hector Gomez (L) during the second inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

After unloading for 10 runs on 14 hits last Friday in a win at Atlanta – a victory that stretched their streak to four – the Pittsburgh Pirates have scored 10 runs total in their past five games.

That they even managed to win two of those games is a testament to their continued excellent pitching.

Charlie Morton was the latest starter to give the Pirates more than a decent chance to win, pitching effectively into the eighth inning in a 2-0 win Wednesday at PNC Park that prevented a Brewers sweep.

Although the Bucs (32-27) wasted good starts from A.J. Burnett (seven innings, one run) and Francisco Liriano (eight innings, three runs) in the first two games of the series, it would have been tough to squander Morton’s most masterful performance since his delayed season debut.

The tall right-hander had both his signature sinking fastball and a darting curveball working against the last-place Brewers (22-38), who fell to 3-6 against the Pirates this season. Morton rebounded from a so-so performance last Friday against the Braves to permit just three singles and three walks in 7 1/3 innings.

He departed with two runners on and Pittsburgh hanging onto a two-run lead, but Tony Watson induced a ground-ball double play off the bat of Jean Segura to squelch the Brewers’ last real threat. Mark Melancon retired the side in the ninth on seven pitches, getting arguably the most routine of his 19 saves.

Morton started the game with four hitless innings even though his groundout-to-flyout ratio was “only” 10 to 6, lower than it had been in his first two starts especially. He made up for it by striking out six with his devastating pitch movement.

Despite scoring less than three runs for the third straight game, the Bucs’ bats actually weren’t bad. Pittsburgh compiled 11 hits, with RBIs going to Starling Marte (infield single) and Pedro Alvarez (solo home run) in the opening two innings.

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  • The left side of the Pirates infield was particularly potent at the plate, with third baseman Jung Ho Kang and shortstop Jordy Mercer getting three hits each, while center fielder Andrew McCutchen had a pair.

    Runs were hard to come by because of a combination of overly-aggressive baserunning – Marte and Kang were thrown out advancing – and a pair of ground-ball double plays. A missed chance in the bottom of the sixth was especially egregious: Alvarez (popout) and Francisco Cervelli (double play) failed to come through after the first three Pirates reached base against Milwaukee starter Kyle Lohse.

    But two runs would be more than enough on this night. The Pirates have overcome an inconsistent offense with a stout pitching staff that ranks sixth in all of MLB in wins above replacement (WAR), keeping them in a playoff position nearly 60 games into the season.

    However, the weakest link of the five-man rotation, Jeff Locke, will get the call in Pittsburgh’s next game, a Friday night confrontation with the Phillies on the North Side. He is scheduled to face former Pirates starter Kevin Correia at 7:05 p.m.

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