Morton, Polanco come up big to pace Pirates in win vs. Diamondbacks
Charlie Morton said the evolution of a pitcher is constant. Morton has evolved to become more than a one-pitch pitcher.
Since the beginning of June, the Pirates' right-hander has showcased another above-average pitch, another way to get batters out — particularly left-handed hitters — and another offering that will perhaps allow him to reach another level.
Known primarily as a two seam-throwing, groundball-inducing pitcher, Morton's sweeping curveball has become increasingly effective. It is increasingly a pitch he relies on, like he did in a 5-1 win over the Diamondbacks on Wednesday.
“I'm throwing it more,” Morton said. “I'm getting more used to that pitch.”
Morton leaned on his curveball Wednesday and was boosted by Gregory Polanco, who smashed a two-run homer over the Clemente Wall in the second inning.
The Pirates moved past Cincinnati into third place in the standings and are six games behind first-place Milwaukee in the National League Central.
The Pirates (44-40) are a season-best four games over .500.
“We had a bad April. We dug a hole,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “We've been digging out.”
Digging out, in part, because of Morton's evolution.
Morton (5-9) struck out five and allowed one run and five hits. He recorded his fourth win since June 2. Since the beginning of June, Morton has enjoyed a dramatic increase in his strikeout rate tied to a significantly better curveball.
In April, Morton was getting whiffs on 11.4 percent of his curveballs. The rate jumped slightly in May (12.5 percent). In June, 26 percent of his curves resulted in swings and misses.
Morton ramped up his curveball usage last month, and he began his July like he ended his June. Morton threw 93 pitches Wednesday, and 30 were curveballs.
According to pitch-tracking data from PITCHf/x, Morton entered Wednesday's start with the most horizontal break on his curveball among all major league starting pitchers. Morton said he has made an adjustment in his delivery in the past month that has refined his curve.
“It's allowed the energy to be more toward home plate,” Morton said.
The Diamondbacks were a good test for Morton. Lefties hit .302 against him in 2013. The five left-handed Diamondbacks were 1 for 18 on Wednesday.
Diamondbacks right fielder Gerardo Parra, a lefty, swung and missed at a curveball in the first inning for a strikeout. Morton threw the left-handed Didi Gregorius four breaking balls in a fourth-inning at-bat. Gregorius pounded the final one into the ground for an easy putout.
Morton was supported by Polanco, who went 2 for 4 with a run and two RBIs. After doubling and scoring in the first, Polanco golfed a Chase Anderson curveball into the right-field bleachers for the third career home run.
“I have long arms, and I can reach a lot more down and away,” Polanco said. “I just stay with the ball. It was a breaking ball, so I just stayed with it and hit it like golf.”
Hurdle said Andrew McCutchen left the game in the ninth inning with left foot discomfort. McCutchen fouled a pitch off his foot in the bottom of the eighth, moments before capping the Pirates' two-run inning with an RBI single.
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.
- Pirates pitcher Burnett could return in 4 weeks
- Steelers activate Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey
- Large crowd mourns woman allegedly killed by escapee
- Wheeling Jesuit University agrees to $2.3 million settlement for misuse of grant
- Former Pennsylvania Sen. Richard Schweiker dies at 89
- New interim director to take over VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System
- Broken water main creates sinkhole that swallows truck in Overbrook
- Heroin, marijuana found in car, driver arrested
- Pirates send Decker to Indy to clear roster space for Morse
- Slot cornerback Boykin should give Steelers options in secondary
- Former wife of astronaut Buzz Aldrin dies at 84