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Morton Struggles, Pirates Lose To Orioles, 8-3

(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) – The Pirates skid stretched to four games as they lost 8-3 to the Baltimore Orioles in Pittsburgh on Monday night.

Charlie Morton (7-4) pitched just two innings, allowing seven runs on eight hits, striking out four. His ERA climbed to 3.77.

Jake Arrieta (9-4) gave up three runs over five innings and even added his first major league hit to became the first Orioles pitcher to reach nine wins by June 20 since Sidney Ponson in 2003.

Though Arrieta wasn’t dominant, he didn’t have to be thanks to an offense that springs to life whenever he’s on the mound.

The Orioles average 6.5 runs per game when Arrieta starts. They needed just two innings to top that mark against struggling starter Charlie Morton (7-4) to hand the Pirates their fourth straight loss.

Baltimore wasted little time pouncing on Morton, whose resurgence has been one of the pleasant surprises in a pleasantly surprising season for the Pirates.

Morton, who endured a miserable 2010 in which he went 2-12 with a 7.57 ERA, has revived his career thanks to an improved sinker.

It rarely worked against the Orioles, who took Morton’s sinker and sprayed it all over PNC Park, which had a fair share of orange in the stands from Baltimore fans who made the relatively short trip west for the game.

Baltimore wasted little time getting to Morton. J.J. Hardy led off with an infield hit and Nick Markakis followed with a double to extend his hitting streak to 11 games.

Adam Jones followed with a two-run single and surging Derrek Lee added another RBI single before Morton managed to get an out.

His misery, however, was just beginning as Robert Andino chipped in an RBI single before Arrieta got in on the act, lofting a flare into shallow right field for his first career hit, a run-scoring single that gave the Orioles a 5-0 lead.

The onslaught continued in the second behind an RBI double by Matt Wieters and a sacrifice fly by Mark Reynolds.

That was more than enough for Arrieta, who labored at times but was never in any real danger against the suddenly struggling Pirates.

Pittsburgh appeared to be on the verge of a breakthrough last week, reeling off four straight wins to climb two games above .500 this late in the season for the first time in 12 years.

Four losses have followed, all to American League teams that have found a way to quiet Pittsburgh’s bats. The Pirates have managed just seven runs during the slide, their longest since dropping six straight from May 10-16.

The victory gave the Orioles consecutive wins for the first time in nearly two weeks as Baltimore improved to 33-37. The Orioles didn’t win their 33rd game last year until Aug. 3.

The win propelled Arrieta into a five-way tie for the AL lead in wins. The rest of the list includes some of the top pitchers in the game, including Detroit’s Justin Verlander and New York’s CC Sabathia.

Arrieta is hardly in their company, yet he’s been the beneficiary of an offense that comes to life on the days he starts.

Baltimore has scored at least seven runs 11 times this season, and Arrieta has started seven of those games.

Pittsburgh’s sloppy defense helped. The Pirates committed three errors, the second straight game the Orioles have benefited from some shoddy fielding by the opponent. The Washington Nationals booted it three times in Baltimore’s 7-4 win on Sunday.

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