Kevin Correia walked off the mound with two-outs in the seventh inning to a warm applause from the home crowd at PNC Park. The right-hander held the postseason bound Atlanta Braves to just one run in what is likely his final start as a Pittsburgh Pirate.
“I don’t think about any contract stuff or where I’m going to be at until after my last start,” Correia said after picking up the win. “It really doesn’t even feel like the season is going to be over in a couple days when you’re coming into today knowing you’re going to pitch. I’ll take a few weeks to kind of not think about baseball and then I’ll figure whatever’s going to happen out. It really doesn’t enter your mind when you’re pitching.”
After putting up zeros over his first three innings and holding Atlanta to just one hit over that span, the Braves were able to scratch across home plate in the fourth. Doubles did the damage against Corriea, whose second extra-base hit to left field by Juan Francisco drove in the first run.
Correia went on to allow one more hit over his next two more frames before giving up a pinch-hit single with two-outs in the seventh. Manager Clint Hurdle called upon left-hander Justin Wilson, who allowed Eric Hinske to double, but a great play at the plate nailed the runner out to end the inning. Reed Johnson attempted to score from first on the knock, but Alex Presley’s throw to Josh Harrison was lined to Michael McKenry at the plate who tagged the diving Johnson to end the inning.
Overall, Correia was charged with just one run on six hits over 6.2 innings. He walked one and struck out five while throwing 97 pitches, 61 strikes in his final start of the season. Correia finished with a 4.21 ERA over 171 innings.
“It’s huge,” Correia said of ending on a good note. “It seems like when you go into the offseason with a bad one, you can’t stop thinking about that for weeks and weeks. It’s nice to have a good one to just go in on a positive note. Just kind of rest your mind a little going into the offseason.”
Correia was moved into the bullpen just after the Pirates acquired Wandy Rodriguez from Houston at the trade deadline. After seeing four relief appearances, and several spot starts, Correia saw an improvement in not only his runs allowed, but also his strikeouts. Correia struck out 20 batters in the month of September after punching out just nine overall in both April and May.
“I just felt the way he was pitching and what he had done, it wasn’t anything other than we felt this was the best way for us to go in the rotation,” Hurdle said. “I don’t want to say it was a reward, I felt he was deserving of the start.”
“I made the adjustments that I wanted to make in the second half,” Correia said. “I wanted to strikeout a few more guys because I knew I could. Just go out there and win some more games. I think I was able to do that. If I had a couple things go my way, I think I could have had a great second half. The team didn’t finish like I wanted it to…I’ll look back at it later and be happy with it overall.”
“I just kind of just changed myself into more of a groundball, try to get quicker outs kind of pitcher coming in. the first half, I just wasn’t getting deep into starts and it wasn’t pitch count related. I kind of just figured that if I wasn’t going to be out there for more than five, six, seven innings, you might as well try to use up your 100 pitches and get some more strikeouts. I was able to do that to a certain extent I think.”
Correia signed a two-year deal with the Pirates in December of 2010. The 31-year-old made the All-Star team in his first year with Pittsburgh after posting a 4.79 ERA over 154 frames.
“I think they’ve been good,” Hurdle said of Correia’s time with the Pirates. “I think he’s been able to honor the contract. I think we’ve been representative of the contract…The innings pitched, all those hard numbers I think they’ve been good. He made an All-Star team. A lot of people lose sight of that. He was a guy that wanted to be more than a No. 5. We gave him that opportunity. He’s come in and pitched well…I believe he’s been an asset.”
“Would I think there would be any invested interest in him in the offseason? I would, but obviously I don’t speak for the industry because I was shown it blankly how wrong I could be at one particular point in time.”
Morris Satisfied With First Trip in Majors
Bryan Morris didn’t get the opportunity to make his Major League debut until he was recalled as a September callup after the Triple-A postseason ended on the 10th. The right-handed reliever was promoted to the bigs earlier in the season, but was not used out of the bullpen.
Morris has made five appearances — the first was his big league debut — in relief with just one game remaining in the season.
“It was a life long dream coming true basically,” Morris said of his first outing. “I had a lot of nerves early when I was warming up and I had a lot of energy. Hopefully it stays like that for a long time.”
The 25-year-old has allowed one run on two hits over five innings with two walks and six strikeouts. The lone run came in an outing against Milwaukee where he allowed both of his hits given up and one of the two walks. His other three outings have been hitless frames, which included his most recent on Wednesday where he struck out two of the three batters he faced.
“The short time up here has been good,” Morris said. “Just the experience of getting into big league games, it’s a good feeling. Hopefully I get a lot more chances coming up next year.”
Morris heads into spring training in 2013 without any options. That could benefit him with breaking came out of spring training for the first time in his career. The organization has been able to get looks at Morris at the big league level, and the results have been solid.
“With the limited time that I’ve been in games, I’ve just tried to do my best to attack the zone and go out there and get as many outs as I can as long as I’m in the game,” Morris said. “I’m satisfied with what’s happened so far.”
— With their 44th win in Pittsburgh last night, the Pirates have produced their best overall single season home record at PNC Park (44-35). Their only other winning season in the 12 seasons of play at PNC Park came in 2006 when they finished 43-38.
— Pittsburgh entered game action ranked eighth among National League teams with a 3.88 ERA. The last time the Pirates pitching staff finished a season with an ERA below 4.00 was in 1998 (3.91) and the last season in which the team ERA was lower than 3.90 was 1992 (3.35).
— Garrett Jones blasted a two-run homer on a 2-0 pitch in the fifth inning off of Tommy Hanson. It marked Jones’ 27 on the season. The Pirates are just one long ball shy of tying the club record of 171 hit in 1999.