PITTSBURGH — On any other night the headlines would scream run support and surprising power from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
But on Wednesday, Pirates starter Charlie Morton was the most explosive player at Great American Ballpark, pitching a complete game shutout in a 5-0 win against the Reds. Morton (5-1, 2.62 ERA) allowed just five hits and struck out five on 106 pitches.
“He’s so effective, especially when he keeps the ball down,” Pedro Alvarez said.
The game was scoreless through three innings with Morton allowing just two hits — both in the first inning. Pittsburgh (19-23, 12-12 away) took the lead in the fourth as Alvarez hit a three-run homer to right field, estimated at 414 feet.
Neil Walker walked and Lyle Overbay singled to center with one out, setting the table for Alvarez to drive a ball right over the heart of the plate from Reds starter Bronson Arroyo well out of the park.
Morton preserved the 3-0 lead by allowing just one hit in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings combined. In the top on the seventh the Pirates provided Morton with even more run support by way of another deep homer.
“I think it was an advantage to come in and have some rest,” said Morton, who was supposed to start Tuesday at Washington and had his previous start against Los Angeles suspended after just two innings. “Obviously I was worried about feeling rusty. I felt pretty sharp, pretty fresh.”
Ronny Cedeno doubled to deep left field — continuing his tear in the month of May — and Morton bunted him over to third base. Advancing Cedeno turned out to be meaningless, though, as Andrew McCutchen pummeled a pitch deep in to the left field seats — estimated at 423 feet — for a 5-0 advantage.
“Any way you cut it, when Charlie’s throwing that way against us, you can’t afford to give up a lot of runs,” Arroyo said.
Morton found himself in a bit of a jam in the eighth inning with runners on first and second with one out, but proceeded to get Paul Janish to ground out to second and Joey Votto to fly out to end the inning unscathed.
Morton came on again in the ninth and pitched a 1-2-3 inning to finish it out.
“I almost thought (the final pitch) was going to go out,” said Morton. “I just looked at it and was, ‘Oh, no!’ But Tabata was at the warning track and he caught it.”
Chris Gates | Bucs Blog