If ever there was a baseball game that you only needed the first inning to understand in its entirety, this one was it. Starling Marte lead the game off with hit a triple, which was aided by Brandon Phillips clearly not understanding how fast and completely fearless Starling Marte is once he starts running bases. Marte scored on an infield single by Russell Martin, which was aided by Zack Cozart and/or Joey Votto. After an Andrew McCutchen strikeout, Mat Latos walked Garrett Jones and Neil Walker. Pedro Alvarez then sent a fly ball in to the left field corner to score two runs (thanks to some poor Neil Walker baserunning, Alvarez ended up on first base and his hilariously low total of just five doubles on the season remained in stasis). That gave the Pirates a 3-0 lead. In the bottom of the first, Charlie Morton hit Shin-Soo Choo with the first pitch in the Name of Justice or Possibly Just Bad Control, got Cozart to bounce into a double play two pitches later, then got Joey Votto to fly out three pitches after that.
Latos settled in after that bad first inning, but it didn't matter. Morton looked much better than he did in his debut, holding the Reds to just three hits and five base runners (he hit Choo and Xavier Paul). He struck out two hitters, got seven ground outs (two flyouts, for comparison), threw his fastball in the 93-96 range, and mixed in some great curveballs. I know that a lot of people roll their eyes when I say this, but I think that Morton's looked pretty good in his first two starts back. The added velocity on his fastball and sinker make him a much more dangerous pitcher than he was before his injury, and I think that he's someone that could help the Pirates this year.
The first thing that a lot of people will notice in this one after the final score is that the Pirates struck out 17 times tonight against Latos and company. Any time a team racks up strikeouts like that it's wort noting, but I do think that it's also worth noting that the Pirates drew six walks tonight and that those six walks made a huge difference in this game in particular. The two walks in the first inning really drove that rally from one run to three runs, and a walk of Jordy Mercer in the seventh inning lead to the fourth run. On the flip side of the ball, the Pirates struck out ten Red hitters tonight and didn't walk even one of them (though of course HBPs don't count). That's not to say that they should keep on striking out seventeen times in a game, just that they faced off against a good pitcher in Latos and that they did some things very well and that helped bring the Pirates a solid win against a very good baseball team. I'll take that.