Morton, newcomer Byrd lead Pirates past Brewers
By Rob Biertempfel
Published: Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, 10:27 p.m.
Very quietly, Charlie Morton is turning into arguably the Pirates' steadiest pitcher.
Morton does not have Francisco Liriano's sizzle, A.J. Burnett's gritty appeal, Jeff Locke's All-Star credentials or Gerrit Cole's raw power. But, as the season moves into its decisive final stretch, Morton is producing practically every time he takes the ball.
Morton muzzled the Milwaukee Brewers for 62⁄3 innings as the Pirates churned out a 7-1 victory Wednesday to snap a three-game losing streak.
Marlon Byrd's three-run homer into the center-field bushes in the seventh inning capped the win. Byrd made his Pirates debut after being acquired Tuesday via a trade with the Mets.
“A very nice welcoming for him,” manager Clint Hurdle said.
Morton (6-3) gave up one unearned run on five hits, walked three and struck out two. The right-hander has won three straight decisions and five of six since the All-Star break.
Morton has worked at least six innings in nine of his past 10 starts. Since returning from Tommy John surgery June 13, he has allowed two or fewer earned runs in nine of 14 outings.
“I feel like I'm doing my job,” Morton said. “I really just want to feel like I'm adding something to the team. I didn't want this year to be about me returning from Tommy John. This is a team that's winning. It needs somebody to step in and to the job.”
It's not hard to pinpoint the secrets of Morton's success. He's keeping the ball down in the zone, which leads to ground-ball outs, and is getting ahead in the count.
Morton went into the game with a 65.7 ground ball percentage, the highest rate of his career. He's thrown first-pitch strikes in 58.3 percent of at-bats, his second-best tally.
“You see confidence, you see really good rhythm and tempo,” Hurdle said. “The complete arsenal of pitches is in play. He's been really consistent. He's really working well, good and efficient.”
With left-hander Tom Gorzelanny (3-6) starting for the Brewers, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle dropped Jose Tabata to the No. 8 spot and batted Josh Harrison leadoff. Harrison led off the first inning with a single.
Jordy Mercer walked on five pitches. Andrew McCutchen — who came into the game with a .373 average against lefties, second-best in the National League — hit an RBI single to left.
Byrd got loud applause from the crowd of 20,634 as he went to the plate for his first at-bat. Byrd took a strike, then hit a smash to Gorzelanny, who snared it waist-high on reflex and doubled McCutchen off first base.
Byrd's next at-bat lasted a lot longer.
After McCutchen singled to start the fourth, Byrd faced 13 pitches to force a full count. Gorzelanny dragged things out by making six throws to first base to keep McCutchen close.
Byrd struck out swinging on the 14th pitch — and got a standing ovation as he went back to the dugout.
“They were like two kids in the backyard playing wiffle ball,” Hurdle said.
Maybe Byrd wore down Gorzelanny. McCutchen stole second and took third on Pedro Alvarez's groundout to shallow right field.
Gaby Sanchez snaked a single just out of second baseman Scooter Gennett's reach to score McCutchen and make it, 2-0.
Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Top pitching prospect Taillon’s time with Pirates must wait a bit
- Pirates notebook: Martin finding power stroke
- Pirates notebook: Volquez, Morton struggle
- Pirates’ big risk with pitch-heavy draft focus might soon pay off
- Pirates seek to tap Alvarez’s remaining upside
- Pirates reserve outfielder Dickerson is also at home on soccer pitch
- Stats Corner: McCutchen’s contract extension brings huge cost savings
- Martin would consider extending stay with Pirates
- Pirates notebook: Morton shows off new weapon
- New Pirates pitcher Eppley brings special delivery to team’s staff
- Pirates notebook: Liriano looks to complete consecutive quality seasons