Pedro Alvarez hit a home run for the Pirates, his 22nd of the year, but Alfonso Soriano hit two home runs for the Cubs, his 11th and 12th, to raise the “W” flag in Chicago 4-1.
The goal for Charlie Morton is to give up as few hard-hits as possible. In his successful 2011 season, Morton had the lowest home run rate for any pitcher in the NL: 6 home runs in 172 innings. Those two home runs allowed to Soriano, widely known as a free-swinger and excellent low-pitch hitter, were mistake pitches and Morton probably knows it. Still, those are just the first two home runs he has given up in 24 innings of work, which is a real positive. Shake it off and get more ground balls.
Credit to Edwin Jackson and the Cubs’ bullpen. Jackson has not pitched nearly as poorly as his 5.50 earned run average would have you believe, even those it is one of the worst ERAs in the league. He still strikes out a lot of hitters and is due for a regression back to his true talent level as a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter.
Alvarez cranked out a homer off him, because that’s what All-Star Pedro Alvarez does. Otherwise, the Cubs gave up only four other hits: two to All-Star Andrew McCutchen and two to future All-Star Starling Marte.
The Pirates went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position, so there were certainly missed opportunities. But one day after Francisco Liriano and the Bucs produce a fine all-around game, it was frustrating to see the offense flounder like it has tended to do in certain games. Michael McKenry allowing a pair of stolen bases did not help matters.
It’s not a bad lineup, just a below-average one, and more performances like Saturday’s will make it Neal Huntington’s duty to add an upgrade. A.J. Burnett takes the mound tomorrow, and boy does it seem like he is on his game at Wrigley Field. The Pirates ought to wrap up a series victory.