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Pirates starter Morton unfazed by upcoming Game 4 stage

| Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, 10:09 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton throws to first during the fourth inning against the Padres Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton delivers during his last start against the Reds on Sept. 28, 2013 at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.

Yes, Charlie Morton said, he is excited to pitch against the Cardinals in Game 4 on Monday, but you could sense there was a “but” coming.

The Pirates' contemplative right-hander paused and considered his next words.

“I think there are preconceived notions that it's different,” Morton said. “Different games may present different challenges, or the consequences might be different than other games. But at the same time, when you get to the park you realize that you're here with these guys, the coaches have our backs, and we're playing baseball against a team we've played against before. So while the outcome of the game has tremendous consequence, it's the same game.”

Tremendous consequence, indeed.

Morton, 29, will be making his major league postseason debut in what could be a deciding game. The Pirates and Cardinals enter Sunday's Game 3 with the series tied, 1-1, so Morton will either be pitching with the Pirates just one win shy of a berth in the National League Championship Series or facing elimination and needing to win to force Game 5 in St. Louis.

“I really don't know exactly what to expect, but I know how to play baseball,” Morton said. “The rest is just managing the emotions and the thoughts.”

Morton enters the game with a 7-4 record this season, including a 6-2 mark (3.28 ERA) in the second half. He's had a string of no-decisions in his past four starts but is 4-1 with a 2.67 ERA in his past 11 starts with only one home run allowed.

His track record against St. Louis isn't as strong. In his most recent start against the Cardinals on Sept. 8, he was lifted after giving up five runs in 1 23 innings at St. Louis. He lost a 13-0 decision at PNC Park on Aug. 1 and was in line for a win but had a no-decision in a 14-inning loss at Busch Stadium on Aug. 13. All told, Morton is 0-6 against the Cardinals since winning a 4-3 decision on April 4, 2011, at Busch Stadium.

At this time a year ago, Morton was 3 12 months removed from Tommy John surgery and two years removed from a 2-12 season in which nothing seemed to go right. Closer Jason Grilli can relate to someone who's had his ups and downs. Grilli said Morton has some of the nastiest stuff he's seen, and it's been even more impressive watching him gain his confidence.

“Sometimes, when you step away from the game — I don't know if mature is the right word — but maybe it makes you hungry more?” Grilli said. “I know, for me, when the jersey's ripped off, you're like (darn it), I want to be there and I want to be successful.”

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at kprice@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib.

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