Morton logs on to Pirates' plan in 5-1 win
Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton throws against the Padres during the first inning of last night's game at PNC Park.
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It was not so much Charlie Morton's arm that carried the Pirates past the San Diego Padres, 5-1, last night at PNC Park.
Rather, it was the big, silver laptop he carried under that arm upon entering the stadium earlier in the afternoon.
"My homework," he called it.
On an accompanying disc, there were breakdowns of all the San Diego hitters' strengths and weaknesses, the standard stuff given to all starters. In Morton's case, though, it all comes with an underlying theme: Be a pitcher, not a thrower.
• Game: Pirates vs. San Diego Padres, 12:35 p.m., PNC Park.
• TV, radio: WPGB-FM (104.7).
• Pitching: RHP Ross Ohlendorf (11-10, 4.03) vs. LHP Clayton Richard (4-2, 5.40).
• Key matchup: Ohlendorf could use a little help. In his 10 losses, the offense has supported him with a total of six runs.
• Of note: The Pirates have been swept in 13 series, and they have swept an opponent three times.
Consider this singular lesson learned.
Armed with little more than a 92-mph fastball and a curveball that failed to fully materialize until mid-game, Morton turned in seven strong innings -- one run, six hits, four strikeouts and a walk -- in winning for just the second time in 10 starts as the Pirates broke a three-game losing streak in front of 26,178.
"It's coming," manager John Russell said of Morton. "He still struggled a bit early, and he could have let the game get away from him, but it didn't. I like the way he competed, especially with guys on base."
Morton allowed a run in the first, but the Pirates erupted -- by their standards -- for three runs in the bottom half off Tim Stauffer, San Diego's erratic starter: Andrew McCutchen opened with a triple and, after two walks and Lastings Milledge's sacrifice fly, Brandon Moss' triple brought two more.
From there, as Padres manager Bud Black put it, "Their guy got better as the game went on. We couldn't get anything going."
Morton left the bases loaded in the second by striking out David Eckstein, leaving slugger Adrian Gonzalez on deck.
And, with two aboard and no one out in the fifth, he got a 3-6-1 double play out of Gonzalez and froze Chase Headley on a sledgehammer curve.
"I was able to use the curve early in counts, and I like that," Morton said. "I like being able to have the fastball and curve, then keeping the changeup in my back pocket."
Spoken like a pitcher rather than a thrower.
"There are times when I'm guilty of just throwing, but I really felt like it was all together here. And, really, I can't give enough credit to Ryan Doumit. He did a great job of calling the game. There were a couple times I wanted to do something, and he came out and straightened things out, went over the plan we had for each guy."
One of those resulted in the curve to Headley.
"I'm getting to a place mentally where my next pitch is all that matters, and that's making a big difference, too," Morton continued. "I'm not dwelling on a bad outing or a bad pitch. Like, if you go back to that game in Chicago, things were different."
He was referring, of course, to that 10-run inning in the 17-2 loss Aug. 14 at Wrigley Field.
"I need to be able to erase everything, just work on the pitches that are the best ones to get the next batter out."
Doumit's RBI single in the seventh made it 4-1, McCutchen added a sacrifice fly the next inning, and Jesse Chavez and Matt Capps closed it out on the mound, the latter with a much-needed 1-2-3 ninth.
Why summon Capps with a four-run lead, a non-save situation?
"We really wanted to win that game," Russell said. "And we need to get Matt out there more often."
"I've got to find a way to bear down in every situation, not just saves," Capps said. "That's something I haven't always done."
The other standout was Garrett Jones, who doubled, walked twice and made a fine backhand pick at first base of Drew Macias' violent bouncer in the sixth.
"Great play," Russell said. "He continues to do good things for us."
To avoid 100 losses, the Pirates, winners of three of their past 20 games, must go 7-10 the rest of the way.
First Published September 19, 2009 12:00 am