For the second time in as many starts this season, Charlie Morton threw a complete game against the Cincinnati Reds en-route to a win. Days after the Pittsburgh media exploded in editorials over the Pirates' organization mistakenly trading away Jose Bautista two years ago, Morton tossed his second career shutout as the Pittsburgh Pirates ended their losing streak at six games. His performance also cooled off a streaking Reds squad who came into the contest with a six game winning streak.
With the Pirates reeling after another frustrating loss against the Washington Nationals on Monday, it appeared at the start of the game that they were heading for loss number six. 2010 NL MVP Joey Votto hit a two out single in the bottom of the first which was followed by a double from Brandon Phillips. With runners on first and third, Morton induced an inning-ending foul-out from Scott Rolen on three straight 92 mph sinkers. From there, Charlie Morton settled in and showed why the comparisons to Roy Halladay could be more realistic than people thought. After surrendering two hits in the first inning, Morton limited MLB's fourth-ranked offense to just three total hits in the final eight innings.
This was Charlie Morton's second complete game of the season. The first was against the very same Reds in the same ballpark. On April 15th, he gave up five hits and one run over nine innings as the Pirates won 6-1. But it is not just the Cincinnati Reds who have had trouble with Charlie Morton this year. In his first seven starts this year, Morton is 4-1 with a 2.94 ERA; a severe contrast to the start of his 2010 campaign when he was 1-6 with a 9.19 ERA.
After dropping his arm-slot down to three-quarters this spring, Morton is rejuvenated and appears to be heading toward a magical season. Not only has Charlie Morton eased the sting of the Nate Mclouth trade, he has given the Pirates a pitcher they sorely missed over the last decade: a stopper. Charlie is rapidly becoming one of the league's premier pitchers after being left for dead in the minor leagues a year earlier. His performance tonight could lift the rotation out of the minor slump they had encountered earlier in the month.
With two on in the top of the fourth, Pedro Alvarez connected on his second homer, sending the ball into the right field stands to break the 0-0 tie. Alvarez went 1-4.
Andrew McCutchen hit his team-leading eighth home run of the year tonight, putting the Pirates up 5-0. McCutchen has an extra base hit in each of his last four games.
Lyle Overbay went 2-4 with a double, and the Pirates belted seven hits off of starter Bronson Arroyo who slugged through seven innings, surrendering all five runs.