If you remember way back to the Nate McLouth trade, the Pirates weren’t initially interested in Charlie Morton because they thought he’d be one of the best ground-ball-inducing pitchers in the Major Leagues. Initially, he looked like he had the sort of stuff that could pile up strikeouts, and it was only after his disastrous 2010 season that he refocused and became the “Ground Chuck” (I hate that nickname) that we all recognize. The return of his velocity after his Tommy John surgery restored some strikeouts to his stat line in 2013, though, and while he’s been up-and-down (sometimes in the same game) in 2014, it’s hard not to notice the uptick in strikeouts for him in June. Morton struck out 39 hitters in 32 June innings and if not for his weird predilection to give up home runs to the Cubs, he would’ve had a pretty fantastic month.
Still, it seems to me like Morton is always just a step shy of finally putting everything together. He’s been a much-improved pitcher since his return last year, but this year he’s had quite a few starts like his last one, in which he pitches excellently in every inning except for one. The defense didn’t help him in Tampa Bay last week, but he didn’t do himself a ton of favors in the first inning, either. We’ve all had our eyes on different pitchers in the last month (Locke, Worley, and Cumpton for their performances and Cole and Liriano for their return schedules), but getting Morton to operate regularly at peak capacity would be a pretty huge thing for the Pirates as they try to stick in this wild card race in the second half of the season. It seems to me like this Diamondback team would be a good team to put everything together against.
Morton will face rookie Chase Anderson tonight, and I’d be lying if I said I knew much about Anderson before having to look him up for this post. He wasn’t on anyone’s Top 100 lists at any poin, but he won his first five starts after a May call-up and turned in some really nice stat lines in those five starts, but in the three starts since then he’s only got 12 strikeouts to go with 7 walks in his 16 innings, which means that his 4.50 ERA in those starts is pretty well deserved. He’s also got a groundball rate under 40% and he’s given up eight total homers in his first eight starts, so it seems like the Earl Weaver Method is the best way to get to him.
First pitch tonight is at 7:05. The Reds are losing and the Brewers have lost. There’s no time to slow down now.