Charlie Morton peppered the strike zone during a complete game gem and the Pirates’ bats lashed Cincinnati for 14 hits Friday night, leading the Bucs to a 6-1 victory over the Reds at the Great American Ballpark. Jose Tabata tallied four hits while Garrett Jones and Neil Walker each went deep, chasing Bronson Arroyo early as the Pirates (6-7) snapped a four-game losing streak.
Morton walked five batters in each of his first two starts of the 2011 season, but the right-hander showed quality control against the Reds (8-5). Morton threw 81 of his 110 pitches for strikes (73.6 percent), including 23 first pitch strikes out of 34 batters faced.
Nearly scrapping his secondary stuff — Morton threw 95 fastballs against the Reds — he struck out three batters, walked two and allowed five hits, surrendering just one run on a Jay Bruce homer in the bottom of the ninth inning. With the complete game victory, Morton (2-0) matched his win total from the entire 2010 campaign.
Pittsburgh’s moribund offense, which plated just one run during a rain-shortened series with the Brewers, broke out against Arroyo. Jones crushed a low-and-inside cutter into the right field stands in the top of the second inning. The Bucs got on the board in the next two innings, too.
Lyle Overbay singled with one out in the third. Walker then flied out, but Pedro Alvarez doubled to left-center on a first-pitch fastball on the outside corner of the plate, moving Overbay to third. Reds manager Dusty Baker decided to have Arroyo intentionally walk Jones to load the bases for Chris Snyder, who made Cincy pay by knocking a curveball into left field for a single that scored Overbay.
Arroyo avoided further damage in the frame, getting Ronny Cedeno to ground out on a fastball well off the inside corner of the dish. The fourth inning, however, proved disastrous for the Reds’ starter. Arroyo got two quick outs on a Morton lineout and an Andrew McCutchen strikeout, but Tabata battled back from an 0-2 count to double to right field. Overbay followed with an opposite field single to score Tabata, giving the Pirates a 3-0 advantage.
While Walker quickly got behind 0-2 in the next at-bat, Arroyo then grooved a belt-high 86 MPH fastball down the pike. Walker unloaded, pulling the pitch over the right field wall to give the Bucs a five-run lead.
Arroyo (2-1) lasted just four innings on Friday, giving up nine hits and five runs while throwing 92 pitches. Lefty Matt Maloney struck out four hitters in four scoreless innings of relief, but Snyder drove in a run in the ninth off Logan Ondrusek after Ondrusek issued free passes to Walker and Jones.
Every player in the Pirates’ lineup recorded at least one hit, save for McCutchen and Morton. Tabata went 4-for-5, swiping his seventh base of the season in the first inning. Snyder, appearing in his second game after serving a DL stint for lower back tightness, had three hits, and Jones went 2-for-4 while also drawing two walks.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle tweaked the lineup on Friday, batting Andrew McCutchen in the leadoff spot for this first time this season. Jose Tabata, who led off in each of the first 12 games, hit second. Neil Walker shifted to the cleanup spot, with Lyle Overbay occupying the three-hole.
Morton’s Scorched Earth Policy
Opposing batters haven’t had much luck lofting the ball against Charlie Morton in 2011. The Bucs’ starter has induced ground balls about 69 percent of the time this year. Morton has gotten those grounders by just about forgetting his breaking and off-speed pitches — he has thrown a fastball a whopping 87 percent of the time so far.
The Pirates will try to get back to .500 on Saturday, when James McDonald (0-0, 5.56 ERA) faces Edinson Volquez (2-0, 5.82 ERA).