Ah, the first time through the lineup was a breeze for Charlie Morton. He sliced and diced his way through the D-Back lineup, getting five of his first six outs via the K, throwing an impressive array of junk and 94-95 MPH heat.
In the second inning, he looked a little less sharp, getting deeper into counts, although it didn't hurt him a twit. But in the third frame of his 34th career start, it became apparent he was still a kid learning his craft. Both his pitch selection and command hit the fan.
Instead of using his heater to put away his mound opponent, veteran Rodrigo Lopez, he inexplicably served him some soft stuff, and Lopez got his first MLB hit when he slapped a slowball into right. Then the wheels fell off.
Arizona, once bitten, laid off the junk and sat on the fastball. Morton obliged by missing with his off speed pitches, falling behind, and trying to blow the heat past the D-backs. Didn't work.
He ended up giving up six runs on six hits that frame, and would only last an out into the fourth before getting the hook, responsible for eight of the runs in a 9-1 loss. Hayden Penn, who was blasted at PNC Park, pitched a 1-2-3 ninth.
Morton could have used some help, especially by avoiding giving in to the hitters with fastballs in obvious fastball counts. But if you can't get anything else over the dish, all the finger-wagging Ryan Doumit can come up with won't help much.
And the Pirates didn't make it any easier on him by giving him any early support. They left the bases juiced in the first, and stranded another duo of runners in the third frame. They would leave just another pair on during the next six innings.
Aki Iwamura and Garrett Jones each had a pair of hits, but the Bucs scattered just eight hits - seven were singles - around Chase Field. Let's hope the last two games don't become a trend.
And on the road, it has been. The Bucs have dropped 51 of their last 66 road games and captured just two road series during their last 23 tries.
-- The Pirates flopped Zach Duke and Daniel McCutchen in the rotation. Duke will go tonight on his regular four days rest, and McCutchen will throw his first outing tomorrow.
-- Joel Hanrahan is scheduled for another rehab outing for Class A Bradenton today. If all goes well, he could be activated on Monday, when the Bucs open a series in San Francisco. The Bucs are anticipated to send Daniel McCutchen down, as there's no need for a fifth starter for the time being.
-- In the minors, a couple of guys are off to hot starts. Pedro Alvarez has three homers in two games for Indy, and 3B Jeremy Farrell of the Class A Bradenton Marauders also hit his third dinger in two days. One was a grand salami; the other two were three-run shots. How's that for production?
-- Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors has a piece on catchers that have given up their arbitration years for the security of a contract, allowing an easy comparison of how Ryan Doumit's deal stands against the others.