Pirates' offense breaks out to support Morton in 10-3 win over Padres

SAN DIEGO — For 4 hours, 4 minutes Monday night, the Pirates flat-out wore down the San Diego Padres’ pitching staff. They saw 249 pitches. Of the 53 men they sent to the plate, 26 reached base. They went 9 for 20 with runners in scoring position yet somehow managed to strand 16 men on base in a game that set the record for the longest nine-inning home game in Padres franchise history.

The result was a 10-3 win at Petco Park, the Pirates’ fourth victory in five games.

“The hitters are part to credit for it,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We just went up there and dug in and battled.”

The Pirates touched up Padres pitching, from starter Tim Stauffer to the six relievers that followed, by relentlessly putting men on base. Jordy Mercer’s four hits tied a career high, and one of them left the ballpark for his second homer of the season. Josh Harrison and Neil Walker each had three hits, and Gaby Sanchez and Andrew McCutchen each hit RBI doubles.

When Mercer heard how many pitches the Padres threw, he chuckled.

“We laid off some tough pitches that they threw, made them throw it over the plate and we didn’t miss our shot,” he said.

Walker drove in an insurance run in the sixth to increase the Pirates’ lead to 4-2, but Russell Martin struck out looking with the bases loaded to end the inning.

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That was a theme for the Pirates Monday. After they scored two runs in the third inning, Pedro Alvarez struck out with the bases loaded, and McCutchen grounded into an inning-ending double play with the bases full in the fourth.

In the seventh, that changed. Harrison singled with the bases loaded to drive one run in and Walker doubled to score two more.

Starting pitcher Charlie Morton held the Padres hitless through four, but walked two batters, hit two more and committed an error that allowed a fifth man to reach base.

The Padres saved their hits for the fifth inning, which they entered trailing 3-0, before stringing together three hits to score two runs. Alexi Amarista singled and scored on Everth Cabrera’s double to the gap in left-center. Seth Smith’s RBI single reduced the Pirates’ lead to 3-2.

Morton (2-7) allowed two runs on three hits. He walked three and hit three batters, but tied a career high with nine strikeouts.

“I thought he competed very well the first four innings,” Hurdle said.

Entering Monday’s start, Morton led major-league starters in hard-hit average against, according to ESPN Stats and Information. At-bats against Morton ended with a well-struck ball only 9.3 percent of the time.

“I have good stuff,” Morton said. “I induce weak contact. … My stuff moves.”

Limiting hard contact usually correlates to improved performance, but soft hits in the right places can be just as damaging.

“To have a 3.30 ERA and your record 1-7, oh yeah, there’s some funny things that are weird that are happening,” Hurdle said before the game. “Some in control, some out of his control.”

That exact phenomenon displayed itself in the first inning. Padres leadoff batter Everth Cabrera dribbled a slow roller in front of the plate, to Morton’s left. Morton fielded and threw, but lost his footing slightly, and the throw went wide. Morton then walked Seth Smith on four pitches.

Morton then struck out Carlos Quentin on a curveball, got Chase Headley looking at a fastball, and forced Yonder Alonso to ground out and end the inning.

Stauffer entered Monday’s start after lasting only one-third of an inning in his previous outing. He threw 37 pitches and allowed seven runs on six hits against the Arizona Diamondbacks before leaving. Monday, Stauffer’s third inning resulted in another 30-plus-pitch affair that forced him from the game: seven batters, 32 pitches, three hits, two runs, one home run, two walks, one balk.

In his 2⅔ innings, Stauffer threw only 40 of his 71 pitches for strikes and allowed two runs on four hits.

Hearing that the evening’s contest set a time-of-game record, Hurdle replied, “Time to go home.”

Bill Brink: bbrink@post-gazette.com and Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published June 3, 2014 2:21 AM

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