It seems like poor form to try and take something positive out of this game because this game was pretty terrible, but, well, why dwell on the obvious?
Really, the only positive from this whole game is that despite the lackluster result, Charlie Morton does appear to be stronger as a result of his Tommy John surgery. Morton's average fastball velocity in 2010 was almost 93 mph, in 2011 it dropped to 91.4, and last year it was only 89.9 mph. Tonight, his fastball averaged between 93 and 94 and it got as high as 97. It's been a long time since Charlie Morton could rare back and bring that kind of heat, and I suspect that it's something that's going to be beneficial for him once he settles in a bit. He threw some really nice-looking curveballs tonight, too, and his curve generated seven swings and misses. Combined with the extra heat from his fastball and he got five strikeouts in his five innings. The sinker worked pretty well, too, since six of his eight non-strikeout outs he recorded were groundouts.
He wasn't perfect, of course, since he gave up seven hits in his five innings and that lead to four runs, but a bunch of the hits were tweeners and the defense behind him was not great (two of the four runs were unearned thanks to a weird interference error by Pedro Alvarez). If Morton were the Pirates' fifth-best starter right now, it'd be pretty easy to say that there were some encouraging signs for the guy's first start in a year. The problem, of course, is that AJ Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez are on the disabled list and so the only three starters ahead of him on the depth chart are Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole, and Jeff Locke, which translates to two mostly unproven guys and an inconsistent one.
Still, it's better to think about the bright spots in Morton's 2013 debut than it is to think about the Zagurski Disaster that followed it or the three-hit shutout that Matt Cain, Javier Lopez, Jean Machi, and Jeremy Affedlt hurled at the Pirates, so let's hope that the added velocity and strikeouts is a good sign for Morton and that he can build on this going forward, because the Pirates are certainly going to need him to with all of the injuries they have to deal with right now.