The Pirates had to overcome a lot of unusual stuff to sneak out a win from the Cubs tonight. After the Pirates took a 4-0 lead against a really ineffective Edwin Jackson in the first inning, the Cubs fought back to tie the game on a three-run homer by Starlin Castro. Morton had only allowed one regular season home run since the end of last July and he’s generally hard to right-handed hitters, so that home run was awfully notable. After the Pirates re-took the lead, Morton gave up a second home run to Castro. Then, with the Pirates holding a 6-5 lead, Tony Watson came in and allowed his first regular season runs since the beginning of last August. Even after all that, the Pirates still managed to win with a Russell Martin sac fly in the top of the eighth.
If we want to get into the details a bit, Morton really just seemed to be having trouble locating his pitches. It looked to me early on like his sinker had a little bit too much movement for him to place it properly and he was keeping his curveball a bit too high up in the zone, though it wasn’t a huge problem because so many of the Cubs can’t hit. I guess the good news is that Morton clearly didn’t have his best stuff tonight, and he would’ve been fine if not for Castro. It’s worth noting that the off-day on Monday gave him an extra day of rest and that he, in general, did not pitch all that well with extra rest last year. It’s a small sample, of course, but sinkerballers are known to be more effective on short rest than other pitchers. In any case, so long as it’s one start, it’s not worth getting that upset about.
There was some good pitching news for the Pirates tonight; both Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli looked like the peak versions of themselves. Melancon had a ridiculous nine pitch inning that featured a strikeout, a weak groundout, and his trademark control with his cutter. Grilli recorded his first strikeout of the year and cruised through the ninth with no trouble. The Pirates also racked up 11 hits, with McCutchen, Alvarez, Martin, and Walker all contributing two (when your 3-4-5-6 hitters have two hits apiece, you’re going to score runs) and Travis Ishikawa adding a Nate Schierholtz-aided two-run triple for good measure. After Castro’s homer erased the Pirates’ early lead, they found themselves constantly in need of an extra run and constantly finding a way to get it.
Charlie Morton gave up two home runs and Tony Watson gave up a run and the Pirates still found a way to win. It wasn’t necessarily pretty, but wins are wins.