Pirates, Morton fall in Arizona
Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton throws against the Diamondbacks in the first inning last night in Phoenix.
Pirates right fielder Delwyn Young makes a diving catch for an out on Diamondbacks first baseman Josh Whitesell in the fourth inning.
Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit is congratulated after hitting a two-run home run.
Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton is caught stealing third base on a tag by Pirates third baseman Andy LaRoche in the first inning.
Diamondbacks first baseman Chad Tracy, right, gets high fives from first baseman Josh Whitesell, middle, and infielder Augie Ojeda after hitting a three-run home run in the seventh inning.
Diamondbacks outfielder Gerardo Parra, right, gets a high five from third base coach Chip Hale after hitting a two-run home run in the fifth inning.
Diamondbacks pitcher Dan Haren throws in the first inning.
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PHOENIX -- Just when the batters put together a big inning -- for them -- this time it was the recently reliable Pirates' pitchers who failed.
Starter Charlie Morton promptly yielded three runs to tie the game, and then a bullpen steady of late -- eight consecutive innings without a single run -- yielded back-to-back doubles and later a pinch-hit, three-run homer to break open an eventual 11-4 Arizona victory before 24,008 inside Chase Field.
In fact, the Pirates' batters gave Morton and Co. a 4-1 lead, after which the host Diamondbacks scored the next 10.
"We didn't pitch very well all around," manager John Russell said. "Charlie fell behind too many hitters, and the bullpen never responded like it has in the past."
Garrett Jones, known amid his hot-hitting start for not playing well with others on base, ended an 0-for-14 skid with runners in scoring position. His double into the left field corner -- inches shy of a home run -- scored Morton, who singled, and Andrew McCutchen, who doubled. This from the same Jones who, after a first inning single, was batting .454 with the bases empty and .083 with at least one teammate aboard.
• Game: Pirates vs. Arizona Diamondbacks, 9:40 p.m., Chase Field.
• TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
• Pitching: LHP Zach Duke (8-9, 3.38) vs. RHP Yusmeiro Petit (0-4, 7.15).
• Key matchup: Petit has been limited to eight starts by a strained shoulder, and only one has been a quality start. Wearing him down could be key: He has 18 walks in 39 innings.
• Of note: Garrett Jones' first nine home runs have come with bases empty. Two other players have done that this season: Milwaukee's Mike Cameron and Washington's Josh Willingham, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Ryan Doumit followed with his third home run in his past eight plate appearances, a day after clubbing two on consecutive at-bats against Milwaukee, and gave the visitors a 4-1 lead.
The four-run fifth inning was characteristic of the Pirates' recent tepid-to-torrid hitting: It marked the sixth time they conjured multiple-run innings in the past eight innings in which they've scored. Moreover, it was only the second time in 20 starts that Haren, who entered with a 1.95 ERA, yielded more than three runs.
"I thought we had good at-bats," Russell said. "We worked the count a little bit on him. I think we had a pretty good approach against him."
Added Jones of Haren's earliest exit since Sept. 10, some 23 starts ago: "I think it was just going up there with a plan: not swing at two many balls and waiting for a good pitch to hit."
However, Morton made it moot in the bottom of that fifth, when Arizona got an Augie Ojeda single, a Stephen Drew triple that narrowly missed being a homer, and a Gerardo Parra blast that didn't miss. That quickly, with one out, it was tied at 4-4.
"I needed to put up a zero in the fifth inning. I didn't," said Morton. "I wasn't sharp. The location wasn't there. The consistency was lacking a little bit. The mistakes I was getting away with earlier on I guess caught up to me, to be honest."
It stayed that way until Evan Meek (1-1) relieved the seventh, when Mark Reynolds and Miguel Montero hit successive doubles, the first one skipping off Jones' glove in left field and skittering to the wall. Montero's scored Reynolds, and, after John Grabow entered with two outs, a Josh Whitesell single to center brought in Montero -- who slid under Doumit's tag on a McCutchen throw a tad to the right of home plate. Ojeda walked, and pinch-batter Chad Tracy clubbed a 2-0 pitch for that three-run homer.
The hosts got an inconsequential, two-run homer from Justin Upton in the eighth off Arizona native Donnie Veal.
From there, the Pirates mustered nothing against the second-worst bullpen in the National League and fourth-worst in the majors. The Diamondbacks relievers, with a 4.91 ERA and a .279 opponents' batting average that was the worst in the majors, got shutout innings from Blaine Boyer (who started the night with a 5.52 ERA), Juan Gutierrez (4.84), Jon Rauch (4.35) and Clay Zavada (2.22). That lineup retired the final 12 Pirates batters in a row. Gutierrez (3-2) got the victory.
Perhaps road woes trump any recent pitching or hitting trends.
The loss marked their fifth in a row away from PNC Park and the 12th in their past 14 road games.
This, remember, comes after the Pirates started their season's second half by winning four of six at home.
First Published July 24, 2009 1:05 am