Morton's strong outing lifts Pirates over Marlins
Charlie Morton said the last thing to come back after Tommy John surgery is control. It was absent in his previous start but returned Wednesday when he led the Pirates to a 4-2 win over the Marlins.
Morton (4-3, 3.88 ERA) did a better job keeping his two-seam fastball down in the zone, allowing two runs and six hits — and no walks — over seven innings. He helped the Pirates improve to a season-best 25 games over .500 (69-44).
“I am coming off a major arm surgery— that's just the reality of it,” said Morton, who is a little more than a year removed from surgery. “I'm going to have misfires, and you can see that against St. Louis. I'm running balls way in on lefties, casting balls on righties. I'm misfiring occasionally. I'm having moments like ‘Whoa, where did that come from?'
“It's part of rehab. It's part of coming back from surgery. It's really frustrating. I'm sure it's frustrating to watch. The last thing to come back is control. ... It's figuring out how to pitch again.”
Morton took a step forward Wednesday. Morton hit catcher Russell Martin's target, low and away, against Giancarlo Stanton in the first, forcing the Marlins' slugger to pound a low two-seamer into the ground. It was one of 13 groundouts recorded by Morton. The next batter, Logan Morrison, swung over the top of a biting two-seamer.
Morton said he's relying more on his two-seam fastball this year, essentially becoming a two-pitch pitcher.
“We were just trying to keep the sinker down on both sides of the plate,” Morton said.
The right-hander also had command of his curveball, burying it low and outside to get Ed Lucas and Morrison swinging in the sixth. Three of his five strikeouts came via the curveball.
“He's got pitches to get outs and get on a roll,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “The curveball was a much better pitch. The challenge with Charlie is consistency.”
Morton's only lapse in command came in the fourth. He allowed a leadoff single to Stanton, and a fastball drifted over the center of the plate to Morrison, who doubled. Donovan Solano followed with a bloop single to give the Marlins a 1-0 lead. An Adeiny Hechavarria double-play grounder scored Morrison to give the Marlins a 2-0 lead.
Morton had better command than Marlins starter Tom Koehler.
In the bottom of the fourth, Andrew McCutchen smashed a Koehler fastball into the right-center field seats for his 16th home run. In the fifth, a Koehler wild pitch allowed Josh Harrison to advance to third and Jordy Mercer to move to second.
Morton slapped a Koehler pitch that caught too much of the plate to right for an RBI single to plate Harrison and tie the score. Starling Marte was next up and showed bunt. Koehler threw a 92 mph fastball traveling toward Marte's face. Marte managed to get out of the way, and the ball sailed to the backstop. Mercer scored on the wild pitch to give the Pirates a 3-2 lead.
“The play was a safety squeeze,” Hurdle said. “I don't know what the pitcher was thinking.”
The Pirates added an insurance run in the eighth. Neil Walker scored on Pedro Alvarez's sacrifice fly.