PITTSBURGH – It was déjà vu all over again for Charlie Morton
The Colorado Rockies salvaged the final game of the three-game set, cruising to a decisive 5-0 victory against Morton and the Pirates.
Morton’s inconsistencies, not just start-to-start but even inning-to-inning, continued to be puzzling this afternoon. In his start against the Marlins on Tuesday night, Morton pitched three perfect innings before unraveling over the next three innings and allowing five runs. The story was similar today, as Morton looked unhittable through the first three innings of this start, inducing weak contact and confounding hitters with his wicked curveball. However, the Colorado hitters seemed to adjust to Morton and things quickly went into a downward spiral for him in the fourth inning.
The Rockies began the fourth inning with two straight base hits, followed by an opposite-field RBI double by Nolan Arenado to take a 1-0 lead. Ben Paulson then ripped a Morton curveball into the right-center field gap, knocking in two more runs. Within just seven pitches, the Rockies had their first four hits of the game and took a commanding 3-0 lead.
“It was an unfortunate sequence there,” Clint Hurdle said after the game. “They plated three runs, they took advantage of balls over the plate and found gaps.”
Morton credited the Rockies after the game for their ability to hit good pitches that he felt he had efficiently located.
“You don’t go out there with the expectation that every time you make a good pitch you’re going to get an out,” Morton explained. “That’s just not how the game works. It’s frustrating when you give up four hits when you make good pitches. The Paulson ball, maybe down a few more inches. The Arenado hit maybe out an inch or two more outside, I don’t know.”
Morton didn’t help himself either in the sixth inning. With two outs and runners on first and second base, Rockies’ catcher Dustin Garneau tapped a come-backer to Morton, who proceeded to deflect the ball towards first base. Morton quickly retrieved the ball, and rushed an underhand throw that sailed over the head of first baseman Michael Morse, allowing both Rockies’ base runners to score. The Rockies extended their lead to 5-0, all but ending the hopes of a Pirates’ comeback on this day.
Overall, Morton pitched six innings, allowing six hits and five runs, three of them earned, walked two batters intentionally and struck out six.
Despite his 4.23 ERA this season, Morton’s overall performance has improved in the month of August. His 5.04 ERA and similar 5.46 FIP in July suggested that his results were more representative of his expected performance. In August, however, he has a 3.47 ERA, but his 2.83 xFIP suggest that he’s due for some better fortune.
The offense was unable to muster much today, as Rockies’ pitcher Jorge De La Rosa baffled the Pirate hitters from the onset – the Pirates did not have a single runner in scoring position until Aramis Ramirez’s double in the seventh inning. The Pirates scattered four hits and made life relatively easy for the Rockies pitching staff.
** The grueling stretch of 20 games in 20 days has come to an end for the Pirates, and they fared as well as anyone could have hoped. They were victorious in 14 of the 20 games, and succeeded in padding their lead over the Cubs to 5.5 games and the Giants to 10 games for the top Wild Card position.
“I’m sure we would take that [record] at any given part of the year,” Neil Walker exclaimed afterwards.
It was clear that the players will welcome tomorrow’s off-day with open arms. Many of the players were in no hurry to jump in the shower, get dressed and rush out of the ballpark. The fatigue among many of the players was evident.
“If you went around the room right now, especially the everyday guys, you’d find some pretty tired guys,” Walker said. “Tomorrow is a much-needed off day for us, just to kind of remove yourself [from the game] mentally and physically. We’re in a real good place.”
Tomorrow will be a travel day for the Pirates tomorrow as they head off to Milwaukee in the afternoon for a three-game series beginning on Tuesday night.