Charlie Morton's start Thursday resembled some outings from earlier in his career -- mostly weak contact, several baserunners, a few runs here, a few runs there.
For Morton, that represented progress. For the Pirates, it wasn't enough.
Morton and the Pirates ran into San Francisco Giants starter Matt Cain at his best in a 10-0 loss Thursday night at PNC Park. It was Morton's first appearance in the majors after Tommy John ligament replacement surgery.
The Giants recorded seven hits in five innings against Morton (0-1). Only one of them, Buster Posey's double to the warning track, was hit hard.
The Giants also took advantage of a walk and three hit batsmen to score four runs, two of them earned, off Morton.
Morton reached 96 mph in the first inning and sat at 91-93 the rest of the way. He had success with his curveball, particularly against left-handed batters. He struck out five and forced six groundouts compared to two flyouts.
Morton returned one day shy of the one-year anniversary of his 2012 surgery. In nine starts in 2012 before the surgery, Morton had a 4.65 ERA in 50 1/3 innings. He previously pitched in the majors May 29, 2012.
Morton started his minor league rehabilitation assignment April 18, but shoulder tightness temporarily halted the process.
The first three Giants he faced game reached base and gave San Francisco an early lead. Morton walked leadoff batter Gregor Blanco, hit Brandon Crawford and yielded a ground-ball single to Posey that scored Blanco. After that, Morton escaped, getting Hunter Pence to ground out before he struck out Brandon Belt and Andres Torres.
He allowed two ground-ball singles in the second. Nick Noonan reached on a forceout and took second on a groundout. Blanco sent a ball back up the middle to score Noonan, widening the Giants' lead to 2-0.
Pence chopped an infield single in the third and stole second, but was stranded. Morton had four strikeouts in the first three innings -- Belt and Torres twice, all swinging at curveballs.
Joaquin Arias beat out a slow grounder to third for an infield hit in the fourth, but a double play erased him.
Morton hit Crawford again with one out in the fifth. Posey's double one-hopped over the wall in left-center field, forcing Crawford to stop at third. Pence grounded to second, and Neil Walker threw home, catching Crawford in a rundown. The umpires ruled, however, that Pedro Alvarez interfered with Crawford and awarded the Giants a run.
Morton hit Belt to load the bases. Torres' sacrifice fly scored another run, and the Giants led, 4-0. Arias appeared to have an RBI single, but the ball hit Pence between second and third and the inning was over.
Mike Zagurski allowed five runs, including a three-run homer by Pence, in the sixth.
Cain (5-3) pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings and allowed two hits.
Thursday was the one-year anniversary of Cain's perfect game, when he struck out 14 against the Houston Astros. The previous time he faced the Pirates, he had a perfect game going until pitcher James McDonald singled in the sixth as Cain settled for a complete-game shutout.
Cain faced the minimum number of batters through four innings Thursday night. He walked Garrett Jones in the second, but a double play erased him.
Jones recorded the first hit against Cain, a single to right to start the fifth.
Bill Brink: email@example.com and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published June 14, 2013 3:30 AM