Pirates routed by Giants in Morton's return
Pirates right-hander Charlie Morton never daydreamed about throwing a no-hitter in his first game back from Tommy John surgery.
“You have an idea of how you want your first start to go,” Morton said. “You want to show your team that you're good to go and you're better than you were before. But I wasn't looking to this start to validate what I went through in the rehab. I wasn't looking for this start to say, ‘I'm back. This is it.' It's part of a process — a long process.”
Which is why Morton can look at his performance in Thursday's 10-0 loss against the San Francisco Giants and feel good about it.
Morton gave up four runs (two earned) on seven hits, walked one and struck out five. He also hit three batters. The outing came 364 days after he underwent reconstructive elbow surgery.
“It was a little bit more intense than I expected,” Morton said. “My warmups were OK. Once I got out on the mound, things sped up a little bit. I guess I didn't really know what to expect, but I got it over with. I wish it had gone better, but I think I can take quite a few positives from it.”
Before the game, manager Clint Hurdle laid out his modest goals for Morton: “The same expectations as we set for every starting pitcher. Get past the fifth inning and give us a chance to win.”
Morton didn't come through on the first part of Hurdle's demand, but it was the Pirates' offense that failed big-time on the second
Morton did an OK job for five innings, but Giants righty Matt Cain was dazzling into the seventh. The Pirates managed just two hits.
Cain (5-3) did not allow a hit until the fifth inning, when Garrett Jones led off with a line-drive single to right field. He worked 6 2⁄3 innings, walked two and struck out three.
Morton (0-1) relied heavily on the weapon he used in 2011 to resuscitate his career: a revamped sinker. Thursday, seven of the 10 non-strikeout outs Morton got came via grounders induced by the two-seamer.
“I got groundballs, struck a few guys out and after the first inning I didn't walk anybody,” Morton said. “Those are all positive things.”
In the first inning, Morton missed the zone with sinkers on his first three pitches and walked leadoff batter Gregor Blanco. Morton's next pitch nicked Brandon Crawford. Buster Posey rolled a single into left field, scoring Blanco.
Morton regrouped. Hunter Pence grounded out. With runners on second and third, Morton used his curveball to strike out Brandon Belt and Andres Torres.
In the second inning, the Giants had Nick Noonan at second base with two outs. After Morton fell behind, 2-0, Blanco grounded a sinker up the middle for an RBI single.
Things fell apart for Morton in the fifth. With one out, Crawford was hit by a pitch. Posey doubled.
Pence grounded to second baseman Neil Walker, who threw to the plate and got Crawford in a rundown.
However, the umpires ruled third baseman Pedro Alvarez obstructed Crawford — they brushed against each other midway between third and home — and the Giants were awarded the run.
Morton plunked Belt to load the bases. Torres hammered a 3-1 pitch, but Alex Presley pulled it in at the wall. Posey scored on the sacrifice fly to give the Giants a 4-0 lead.
The final act of the inning was wacky, too. Joaquin Arias hit a smash into left field. The ball skimmed off Pence, who was a few steps off second base.
Being hit by a batted ball is an automatic out and it ended the inning.