Sputtering Pirates lose to Reds, 5-2

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The Pirates drew a bases-loaded walk in the first inning Wednesday night to score a run, and Andrew McCutchen drove a home run into the left-field bleachers in the third.

It went south from there though, as the Pirates lost, 5-2, to the Cincinnati Reds at PNC Park largely due to one rough inning for starter Charlie Morton (0-3) and no run production in the final six innings.

The Reds scored three runs off one hit, three walks — one intentional — one hit batsman and a botched double play in the fifth to go up, 4-2, en route to the win.

“[Charlie] did have some command problems that got on him in the fifth inning,” said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. “To have 107 pitches after six innings … the walks, the hit batter. First-pitch strikes were down, just 12 of 27. He had to get out there and work. Charlie, when he’s out there he’s more efficient than that. He just had to battle.”

The Pirates, 1-5 in their past six games, dropped to 9-13 and the Reds improved to 10-11.

The series will close at 12:35 p.m. today, when Brandon Cumpton, recalled from Class AAA Indianapolis, will face Reds left-hander Tony Cingrani (1-2, 3.22 ERA). Cumpton, 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA for Indianapolis, will make his season debut for the Pirates.

Morton was clipping along just fine until the fifth when he started to struggle with location. He opened the inning by hitting Devin Mesoraco with a pitch, then walked Ramon Santiago.

Billy Hamilton hit a one-out, run-scoring single to drive in Mesoraco, and, while Hamilton was stealing second, Santiago scored on a throwing error by backup catcher Chris Stewart, who was inserted into the lineup at the last minute.

Morton nearly got a double-play grounder from Jay Bruce to end the inning, but dropped the ball at first as Hamilton scored to make it 4-2.

“It wasn’t until that fifth inning. I just lost feel,” said Morton. “I’m literally missing where I’m trying to throw the ball by 3 feet. I’m just pulling the ball. Pulling across my body. I didn’t execute.”

Morton pitched a scoreless sixth to end his outing. Overall, he gave up four hits, four runs (three earned), five walks and hit a batter. He threw 108 pitches, and 59 for strikes.

The Reds were aggressive running the bases, stealing four.

“Yeah, and Charlie I think it was a little complicated for him with the stuff that he had. When you slow down, they know,” said Hurdle. “There’s 18 watches. Third-base coach has one, guys in the dugout got one. They were able to take advantage of some situations that way with our release time as much as anything.”

The Reds scored a fifth run in the eighth off reliever Bryan Morris, who gave up a leadoff double to Bruce, who took third on a wild pitch and later scored on Mesoraco’s one-out, fielder’s choice grounder.

Cincinnati starter Alfredo Simon (3-1) is holding down the No 5 spot in the Reds rotation while regular starter Mat Latos overcomes elbow and knee injuries. Simon struggled in the first.

Starling Marte led off with a single and stayed put until Simon issued three consecutive two-out walks. Travis Snider got the third one and the RBI.

Reds left fielder Roger Bernadina drew a leadoff walk in second, stole second, and took third on a throwing error by Stewart and scored on Santiago’s groundout to make it 1-1.

McCutchen’s third-inning home run — his third homer in three games — gave the Pirates a 2-1 lead.

“Not always going to get a hit or get calls to go my way, but have been feeling pretty good,” said McCutchen. “[Simon] gave us some pitches to hit. He did a good job, but we definitely had a chance to pound some runs on the board.”

The Pirates had two on in the ninth with one out, but reliever Jonathan Broxton shut things down for the Reds, retiring Neil Walker on a pop to shallow center and McCutchen on a grounder to short.

Jenn Menendez: jmenendez@post-gazette.com and Twitter @JennMenendez First Published April 23, 2014 10:39 PM

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