Pirates cruise to 6-2 victory over Cubs

Charlie Morton picked up Monday night where Jeff Locke left off Sunday. He worked quickly and efficiently against the Chicago Cubs, dropping his curveball in to generate swings and misses while encouraging grounders with his sinker.

With the benefit of run support that Locke did not receive, Morton earned the win in a 6-2 victory against the Cubs at PNC Park.

Morton (3-7) pitched seven innings of one-run ball, the same as Locke did Sunday against the Milwaukee Brewers. Morton needed 82 pitches to complete those seven innings; Locke needed 75. Morton, who leads the majors in hit batters, did not hit anyone, nor did he walk one, and he did all this against a lineup featuring five left-handed batters and a switch-hitter.

"I pitched lefties a little bit differently," Morton said. "A little less to contact to lefties because they've hurt me more in the past. My sinker isn't necessarily a quick out to a lefty, so I have to pitch them a little bit different."

The consecutive starts were a good sign for a rotation that ranked 13th in the National League with a 4.40 ERA and just lost Gerrit Cole to the disabled list and a bullpen that ranked second in the league in innings pitched.

"Definitely back-to-back outings like this, you gain some optimism," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Things are contagious in this game, and we'd like for that to be one of the things that becomes contagious as well -- those starters getting deeper."

Morton cruised through the first three innings, needing only 29 pitches, 22 of which were strikes. Through the first five innings, the only hits he allowed came on a bunt single, a high chopper in front of the plate and a grounder poked down the left-field line for a double away from a defensive shift.

The efficiency was a departure from his previous three outings. He did not complete six innings in any of them but threw 108, 104 and 98 pitches.

"He had three major league pitches tonight," Hurdle said.

"He was quick with strike one. Very efficient with his pitches overall."

Andrew McCutchen went 2 for 4 with a home run, a double and three RBIs. He has 10 extra-base hits in eight games this month.

"Made a little minor adjustment and now I'm seeing the ball a little longer and now I'm being able to get the barrel to it," McCutchen said. "When I get the barrel to it, good things happen."

Ike Davis and Starling Marte both snapped long hitless streaks.

Davis broke an 0-for-22 string with a solo home run into the shrubbery in the eighth, and Marte went 3 for 4 with two doubles and two RBIs to end his 0-for-23 slump.

"We've seen it before, and this could be a good game for him to regain some confidence and get moving in a better offensive direction as well," Hurdle said of Marte.

Marte hit an RBI double in the second to give the Pirates an early 1-0 lead.

Travis Snider and McCutchen took advantage of outside pitches in the third. Snider hit one for a double that bounced over the wall in left, and McCutchen poked one down the right-field line for his eighth home run this season.

McCutchen struck again two innings later. Cubs starter Edwin Jackson had retired seven in a row after McCutchen's homer, including four strikeouts, before Snider singled with two outs in the fifth. McCutchen hit a fly ball off the Clemente Wall in right to score Snider and extend the Pirates' lead to 4-0.

The Cubs got one back in the sixth. Anthony Rizzo singled into the shift when his ball deflected off the glove of a diving Pedro Alvarez. Starlin Castro's double to the wall in right-center field scored Rizzo and reduced the Pirates' lead to 4-1.

The Pirates scored two runs off Carlos Villanueva in the eighth, including Davis' homer and Marte's second RBI double, meaning Jason Grilli got the night off.

Jared Hughes pitched the ninth and allowed a solo home run to Castro, who went 3 for 4.


■ Game: Pirates vs. Chicago Cubs.

■ When: 7:05 p.m.

■ Where: PNC Park.

■ TV, Radio: Root Sports, KDKA-FM (93.7).

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

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

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