Pirates go easy against Reds; win streak ends
The long list of Pirates pitchers throwing the ball well — from starters to the bullpen — officially doesn't include Charlie Morton anymore.
With a chance to extend a season-best four-game winning streak and climb above .500, the Pirates fell to the first-place Reds, 8-1, on a rain-delayed Tuesday night.
Morton suffered another tough outing in the Pirates' worst loss of the season at PNC Park.
“I think a lot of it has to do with confidence,” catcher Rod Barajas said of Morton. “It seems like once things go a little sour, it seems like maybe the confidence drops a little bit. He's putting himself in a bad situation.”
The up-and-down Morton (2-6), knocked out after four innings, lost for the fifth time in his past six starts and has become a rare question mark on a pitching staff that entered the game third in the majors with a 3.20 ERA.
“I'm confident,” Morton said. “I'm going to figure something out.”
Following a 1-hour, 54-minute rain delay to start the game, Morton allowed four runs on six hits, including three doubles and a triple, and numerous hard-hit outs. The sinkerballer recorded groundball outs on only five of the 19 batters he faced — and one of those was a sacrifice bunt by pitcher Homer Bailey (4-3).
“Poor execution,” Morton said.
Morton, who is 1-5 with a 5.67 ERA in May, could be the odd-man out from the rotation when Jeff Karstens returns from the disabled list. Karstens (right shoulder) is scheduled to make his second rehab start Thursday for Triple-A Indianapolis.
Manager Clint Hurdle said he “will continue to let (Morton) work and talk.”
“We've got to find a way to way to help him get comfortable on the mound because he still doesn't look comfortable on the mound all the time to me,” Hurdle said. “There's not many (groundball outs). Not what we are used to seeing. The ball was in the air a lot tonight.”
The Pirates, who had never trailed during a Memorial Day weekend winning streak that pushed the team to .500, fell behind 4-0 after four innings. Included was an RBI-double by Reds rookie third baseman Todd Frazier, who earlier in the day saved a choking man in a North Side restaurant with the Heimlich maneuver,
Bailey, who improved to 6-0 with a 1.79 ERA in eight lifetime starts against the Pirates, allowed one run on four hits in a complete-game victory.
The Pirates managed only one baserunner, on an error, in the final four innings.
John Grupp is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7930.