“In that situation, we’re playing the Cardinals,” Morton said. “The gravity and the emphasis on that game is greater. It was the Cardinals, so I guess I would take that a little harder than any other game
Six days later, Morton responded to possibly his worst start of 2013 with his best start since his return from Tommy John surgery on June 13. Morton threw seven innings and allowed two runs on six hits, walked none, and struck out five.
“In a way it’s kind of a relief,” Morton said. “But in the same sense, my last four or five starts, I threw a good game against the Mets here, threw a good game against the Nationals, was mediocre in Miami, and then yeah I struggled against the Cardinals. I gave up five runs.”
Morton’s start earned him his fourth win of the season, and moved the Pirates to a season-high 25 games over .500 at 69-44.
“To go out there and bounce-back and have a good outing, that’s what I was hoping to do,” Morton said.
Morton ran into trouble in the fourth, when the Marlins recorded back-to-back-to-back hits to open the scoring. Giancarlo Stanton singled, Logan Morrison doubled, and Donovan Solano drove Stanton home from third.
But Ground Ball Chuck lived up to his billing, as he served up a “really big” double-play ball off the bat of Adeiny Hechavarria that traded two outs for a 2-0 lead. Morton struck Jake Marisnick out swinging to end the inning.
“He’s capable of getting two outs with one pitch with somebody on base better than anybody we have,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “I do think that probably gave him a boost of confidence moving onto the rest of the game.”
The fourth was the only difficult inning for Morton though, and the Pirates’ starter retired 11 straight batters after Solano’s RBI single as he pitched perfect fifth, sixth, and seventh innings.
“He just got to a good place and started making pitches and trusting the catcher, following the glove,” Hurdle said.
As McCutchen did when the Pirates trailed 3-0 last night, he answered the Marlins’ offense with some of his own. Tuesday, it was a two-RBI double.
Wednesday, McCutchen hammered a 3-1 fastball left over the outer half of the plate over the fence in right-center field. The no-doubt home run cut the Marlins’ lead in half, and gave the Pirates’ center fielder home run no. 16 in 2013.
After Marlins starter Tom Koehler shut the Pirates out in his first three innings that included six strikeouts, McCutchen wasn’t “waiting” on a fastball but knew Koehler was using it early and often to start the game.
“I was just ready to hit and that was it,” McCutchen said. “I just needed to get my foot down, be ready to hit, and that’s what I was able to do.”
After he hit Koehler’s pitch, McCutchen knew it was gone. “Oh yeah. Yeah. I got it pretty good.”
McCutchen finished 2-for-3 with a walk and a stolen base as he continues his hot hitting. McCutchen’s batting average now sits at .312.
“Andrew’s in a very good place right now all over the place,” Hurdle said.
The Pirates scored again in the fifth on a RBI single by Charlie Morton to score Josh Harrison from third, and Jordy Mercer made it home after Starling Marte was almost hit in the face attempting a bunt. With the danger averted, the Pirates led 3-2.
“When you get breaks you need to move on them,” Hurdle said. “One of the signs of a good team is when you get an opportunity, you move upon it.”
The Bucs moved again in the eighth on a sacrifice fly by Pedro Alvarez that put the Pirates for 4-2. Closer Mark Melancon took the ball in the ninth and earned his seventh save, capped with a swinging strikeout of Logan Morrison on a 3-2 count.