Last season if something went wrong for Charlie Morton the house would fall in and he would be garbage for the rest of the game. This year is the complete opposite and he put together an impressive performance after an almost 90 minute rain delay in the first inning to shut down the Reds and continue his dominance against the Red Legs helping in the 2-0 Pirates win.
The game started late and most people thought we would be able to get through it with no problem. Morton got into a huge jam with runners on the corner with no outs before Morton got Joey Votto to ground out on a comebacker and then got Brandon Phillips out via a strikeout. After a walk to Jay Bruce it got strange. With a 1-2 count to Miguel Cairo there was a huge flash of lighting and the game was put on hold for almost 90 minutes as it poured. Morton has thrown almost 30 pitches and you had to wonder if he was going to come back out.
After the delay Morton came back out and got Cairo to hit a ball back up the middle where Chase d’Arnaud laid out got the ball and while he is flat on his stomach glove flips the ball to Neil Walker on second base and barely get Bruce at second. No damage. That was as close as the Reds got.
Morton ended up going five strong innings and only gave up three hits and struck out three on 87 pitches. After a 34 pitch first inning it was really amazing that Morton could get through five innings and after he came back out he just cruised. Probably could have got through the sixth but Clint Hurdle decided against that. Really nice outing from Chuck.
The rest of the game was the Tony Watson show. He relieved Morton and went 2.2 innings and didn’t give up a single hit. He lowered his ERA to 2.40 on only 33 pitches and gave up a walk to the last batter he faced. Daniel McCutchen came in for Watson in the eighth and go a pop out with runners on first and second and then Joel Hanrahan slammed the door shut. Another great night from the pen.
The Bucs got both of their runs in the fourth inning. d’Arnaud singled to open the inning and then Walker singled hard to right field and d’Arnaud made a ballsy decision to go to third base and barely beats out a throw by Bruce. On the play Walker moved up to second on some great base running to set up two runners in scoring position with no outs. Andrew McCutchen drove in a run on a ground out to short and then Matt Diaz drove in Walker, who moved to third on the ground out, with a sacrifice fly to right.
The Pirates only managed six hits and Walker and Alex Presley were the only players in the game who had multiple hits, both with two. Walker extended his hit streak to 12.
I talked about how good the pitching was but you can’t say it enough. Watson, McCutchen and Hanrahan combined to give up zero hits in four innings of work and Morton has now pitched 23 innings against the Reds this season and has only given up one run and 13 hits. Any way he can pitch tomorrow and Wednesday too?
With the win the Pirates now hold sole possession of first place and are a half game up on both the Cardinals and Brewers. The Pirates were in first place after Friday’s game but that was only by a percentage point and they were never considered by themselves above any team, they were always tied. Now they are all by themselves. It isn’t going to be easy as they play two more against the Reds before going into a series with the Cardinals but if this team is going to be for real then they need to start winning games against the top competition in the division and they are doing that right now.
Also got some other good news before the game as ESPN will be picking up the Pirates on Monday, July 25 when they travel to Atlanta for a Monday night game. National TV for the first time in, like, forever, for the Pirates. How good does this feel? How fun is this?
Another big one tomorrow. Get some sleep you crazy animals.