Every time that Chuck Morton goes onto the mound you kind of get excited. You know that this year is different than last year and he looks totally different. Tonight was no different. Chuck was about as good as it gets tonight going the distance for his second complete game of the season and his first shutout of the year.
Morton threw 106 pitches, 69 for strikes and got 15 ground outs as opposed to only seven fly outs. I will take that every day of the week. Morton was wildly effective and had the Reds hitters baffled and pounding the ball into the ground almost at will.
What might be most impressive about the win is that this is the second time that Morton has faced the Reds this season. This just wasn't some "first time around" thing. This was the Reds hitters seeing him one time and still not being able to adjust the second time. In two starts against the Reds he has pitched 18 innings and gave up only one run and striking out eight.
Last season any time there was a way something could go wrong it went wrong. Horribly wrong. Every ball that could have found a hole did. Every ball in the gap was just out of the reach of an outfielder. Every pitch was left up just a few inches. Every time there were base runners on base he would literally crumble and give up huge innings. Not this year. This year he thrives when runners get on base and forces double play balls. He is pitching with confidence and knows that he is better than the hitters he is facing. Confidence is a scary good thing for a pitcher and right now Chuck has it.
While Chuck was just straight dealing the offense just did enough to get the Pirates the win. The Pirates only scored in two innings but they were pretty unreal hits that put them up.
Pedro Alvarez finally got another home run on the board with a 414 foot line drive to the right field seats. This ball was just hammered. Bronson Arroyo left a change up right in the middle of the plate and Alvarez made him pay. What was encouraging about this home run was that he might have broke a few seams when he hit it, but that he adjusted from the previous at bat when he swung through a change up. The second at bat he saw the pitch and killed it. Pedro now has four hits in his last 10 at bats and has looked a lot better at the plate. This doesn't mean he is out of his season long slump, but it is a step in the right direction.
Andrew McCutchen seems to be getting into a nice groove. Although he was only 1-for-5 on the night but he got a charge into a few balls with the highlight being the one hit he did have, a two run shot to the left field seats. Cutch now has eight home runs and a team-high 23 RBI. He seems to be coming into his own and when he really starts going it is going to be fun to watch.
That being said the Pirates relied on the home run to win the ball game. Over the past couple of recaps I have talked about the Pirates needing to be more consistent offensively. Sure they can string together an inning here and there but they are not a consistent threat to score runs. While that worked out alright tonight that is not going to be the case every night. They had eight hits and went hit less in five innings. While they sprinkled in a hit here and there it could be a lot better. I think the offense had been getting better over the last week and hopefully that will build.
Ronny Cedeno stays hot. No idea who this guy is, but I like it. He had two hits tonight for his third straight game with multiple hits and defensively he has gone 27 games without an error. I really don't expect Ronny to be a gold glove from the short stop position or hit .300 but doing what he has done over the past two weeks would be nice. If at the end of the season he was hitting .270 and cut out the lapses in defense he could really help the Pirates. A lot of people will say that he does this every year, go on a streak for about a month and then cool off. It will be interesting to see how Cedeno responds the rest of the month and into next month. Word is that he tweaked his swing with a leg kick and that is being talked about having a big impact in his results lately. To be honest even the outs he is hitting into are being hit hard.
The Bucs finish up the two game series with the Reds tomorrow. Remember everyone, it is a day game so plan your lunch break accordingly.