Pirates lose third straight in first game of doubleheader, 4-3

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NEW YORK — Charlie Morton buckled down after a poor first inning, and Neil Walker and Tony Sanchez homered, but it was not enough for the Pirates to avoid a 4-3 loss to the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader.

The Pirates lost their third consecutive game and the fifth out of their past six.

Morton’s start followed the blueprint of his previous outing: A bad opening inning during which he allowed multiple runs, then efficient work thereafter. He allowed the first three batters of the game to score but faced the minimum in the third through seventh innings. He walked one and struck out six but fell to 0-6.

In his most recent start, at home against the St. Louis Cardinals, Morton allowed four runs, one of them earned, in the first inning as the Cardinals recorded four hits and batted around. He then pitched five scoreless innings.

Walker jumped on a first-pitch sinker from Hiroki Kuroda that stayed up in the zone. Walker’s team-leading ninth home run of the season put the Pirates ahead 1-0.

Morton allowed the first five batters he faced to reach base. Three of them scored. He walked leadoff man Brett Gardner, Derek Jeter reached on a bunt single and Jacoby Ellsbury took a pitch off the foot.

That loaded the bases with no outs for Mark Teixeira, who singled to center to score two runs. Brian McCann’s single drove in another and pitching coach Ray Searage went to the mound for a talk.

Morton allowed two hits and a run in the second, but he struck out three batters swinging on curveballs.

Tony Sanchez homered for the second time this season in the fifth. Clint Barmes followed with a double and took third base on a grounder. Walker lined a ball to Kelly Johnson at third, but the ball popped out of Johnson’s glove, allowing Barmes to score and cutting the Yankees’ lead to 4-3.

Bill Brink: bbrink@post-gazette.com and Twitter @BrinkPG.

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