Nationals rally to rough up Pirates
It was another hard lesson for Pirates right-hander Charlie Morton tonight against the Washington Nationals.
Morton cruised through the first five innings relatively unscathed, but came unhinged in the sixth. The Nationals scored four runs and rolled to an 8-4 victory to earn a split of the four-game series.
The big blow was Adam Dunn's three-run homer, which came after Morton hit Ryan Zimmerman with a pitch.
Morton (2-4), who arrived via trade with the Atlanta Braves, has been erratic since joining the rotation June 10.
Not all of it has been his fault. His Pirates debut was cut short by a hamstring injury and he also endured rain delays.
Morton has had one awful start (five runs, 10 hits in four innings against Houston). Ten days later, he was dazzling (seven shutout innings against San Francisco). He was the victim of poor run support in another solid start (two runs on six hits in six innings last week against San Francisco).
"This kid just needs experience," Russell said. "He just needs to learn how to use his stuff. As you see him grow, he's going to get better and better."
Russell compared Morton to Ross Ohlendorf, saying both young right-handers still are figuring out how to harness their talent.
"They're both learning how to use their velocity, how to use their off-speed, learning which side of the plate to go to, how to read the hitters," Russell said. "To a certain extent, all of our guys are like that. We don't have that 10-year, established pitcher.
"Charlie and Ross are still in that development (stage). They've got good enough stuff that they're going to show you a lot of good things, but you're also going to see things that you know have got to improve."
Andrew McCutchen started the game by ripping a 2-2 pitch from Nationals right-hander Garrett Mock into the left field rotunda. It was McCutchen's seventh home run of the season, his fourth of the series.
With one out, Garrett Jones walked. He went to third on Ryan Doumit's single. Doumit moved to second on right fielder Elijah Dukes' errant throw.
Steve Pearce blooped a single into shallow left, scoring Jones. Doumit scored when Delwyn Young rolled into a fielder's choice, making it 3-0.
The turning point came in the fifth. The Pirates loaded the bases with none out, knocking Mock out of the game, yet failed to score.
Young hit a comebacker to righty reliever Tyler Clippard (2-1), triggering a 1-2-3 double play. Andy LaRoche popped out.
The Nationals broke through against Morton in the sixth. Anderson Hernandez singled, moved up on Nyjer Morgan's ground out and scored on Cristian Guzman's single.
Zimmerman was nicked on his upper arm by a high fastball. That caused pitching coach Joe Kerrigan to jog out to the mound for a chat with Morton.
Four pitches later, Dunn swatted his 27th homer of the season into the left field seats.
The Nationals put the game away in the seventh by hitting for the cycle and scoring four runs — all with two outs — against Jeff Karstens. Morgan and Dukes singled, Guzman tripled, Zimmerman homered and Dunn doubled.