Cardinals pummel Morton, bullpen in win over Pirates
Those symbols of dominance, brooms brought from homes and workshops to PNC Park, were idle Thursday. The Cardinals posted a dominant 13-0 victory over the Pirates to avoid being swept in a five-game series for the first time since September 1916, when St. Louis was swept in a six-game series at the Polo Grounds in New York.
Pirates starting pitcher Charlie Morton was not pleased with his command in his previous start in Miami, and he again struggled to locate his fastball. The bullpen was battered — the staff allowed 17 hits — and the Pirates' bats were quieted by Cardinals fifth starter Joe Kelly. The Pirates were shut out for the eighth time this season and second time in a week.
“We kept the cat in the bag for four days,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “The cat got out tonight.”
The Pirates gladly will take winning four of five games in the series to take ownership of first place in the division. But Thursday, for a second consecutive night, a Pirates starting pitcher struggled.
Morton hit two batters, walked one and had the game's first run score on a wild pitch.
Morton's fastball was left up in the zone too frequently, and the Cardinals often took advantage, battering him for 10 hits in six innings.
“Any time you throw the ball somewhere you don't want to, (the problem is) release point,” Morton said.
Morton has allowed 19 hits over 11 innings in his past two starts.
“He's working to improve the consistency, tempo and timing of his delivery,” Hurdle said. “He got a little out of whack tonight.”
The game got away from right-hander in the fourth. Morton began the inning by walking Allen Craig. After allowing back-to-back base hits to Matt Holliday and David Freese, he hit Jon Jay with a pitch to force in Craig to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead. After Holliday scored on a double-play ground out later in the inning, Morton left a fastball up to Pete Kozma, who drilled the pitch into center to score Jay for a 4-0 lead. In the sixth, Morton left a two-seam fastball out over the plate to Carlos Beltran, who crushed it into the left-center gap to score Kelly. The Cardinals led, 5-0.
Jeanmar Gomez relieved Morton in the seventh and fared even worse, allowing seven runs in a third of an inning. Vic Black relieved Gomez and also was shelled.
Kelly has allowed just six earned runs in 34 innings since taking over as the Cardinals' fifth starter. Kelly allowed three hits and no runs over six innings. The Kelly-led win was a relief to Cardinals manager Mike Matheny.
“It's been gut-wrenching,” Matheny said. “It's something you go to sleep thinking about and you wake up thinking about it and wonder what that sick feeling in your stomach is when you get up. You realize it's because you haven't been doing what we're supposed to do, what we're paid to do, and that's win ball games.”
Note: The Pirates announced a total attendance of 129,623 for the series, a four-date series record for PNC Park.
Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.
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