This was an outstanding game by the Pirates. The pitching was there, the hitting was there, and they were playing a team that wasn't very good. I mean the Cubs are not a good baseball team. I am not sure how much of today was the Pirates, Charlie Morton, et al being really good, if it was the Cubs being bad, or some combination of both but this was a pretty complete game for the Pirates.
Charlie Morton was on today. He has been wildly inconsistent this entire year and even though he has shown flashes of the guy he can be he really hasn't put it all together. Tonight he had one of his best starts of the night. He threw seven innings, giving up one run and not walking or hitting a batter. For a guy that puts a lot of guys on base for free Morton really buckled down today and had his stuff working. Last start it was a case of Morton not having any idea where his two seam fastball was going but tonight he had it under control and was painting corners on the Cubs hitters. He threw 59 of his 82 pitches for strikes and struck out seven batters. 18 of his 27 first pitches went for strikes and he was in total control in almost every single situation. The Cubs got a run thanks to Travis Snider looking like he'd never played outfield before and two other hits were thanks to the Cubs hitting the ball a combined 40 feet to beat the shift.
Morton had a lot of success with his curveball tonight as he got eight swings and misses on it that included six swings and misses on the curve from left handed hitters. This is the guy I thought the Pirates were going to get all season. It hasn't happened yet but over his last few starts he has cut down on his walks and if he can do that and control is two seam fastball and the sinker then this could possibly be a turning point for him. The Pirates need that to happen.
For as good as Morton was tonight it was incredibly perplexing that Clint Hurdle decided to lift him after only 82 pitches. I didn't listen to his post game but I have to imagine that Hurdle saw the three run lead and immediately played for the save stat. Sure, Morton was due up in the bottom of the seventh inning but why not run him back out? The Cubs did next to nothing against him and for a vast majority of the season the Pirates have struggled in a big way to get their starters deep in the game. It all worked out in the end but why throw guys into the game out of the bullpen when your starter most likely can go the complete game? I truly hope it wasn't just for the save stat because that is a silly reason to yank your stater that was cruising.
The offense got to Edwin Jackson early and often. The Pirates have done a pretty good job against Jackson all season and the middle of the lineup did work tonight. Snider, Andrew McCutchen, and Pedro Alvarez each had two hits and Starling Marte had three hits to break out of his horrid slump. So the Pirates 2-6 hitters went 10-for-18 (Ike Davis had a home run) and that was every single hit the Pirates had.
The offense got a run in the second inning thanks to a Starling Marte double and then McCutchen decided to take over as he blasted a two run home run to right field in the third inning before doubling home a run in the fifth inning to give the Pirates all the offense they needed. They got some insurance thanks to the Davis home run and back-to-back doubles by Marte and Alvarez in the eighth inning and that was all she wrote.
The Pirates need to do this to teams like the Cubs. They can be really up and down but in a four game set you would hope the Pirates could win three of those and try to close the gap a little more in the NL Central after they had a couple of tough losses to the Brewers the last two days. Hopefully Francisco Liriano can replicate the starts from Jeff Locke and Morton the last two days.