It took Charlie Morton 23 pitches to get through the first, but he did it in typical fashion - two groundouts, a walk and a K. He didn't get a swinging strike until his last pitch, whiffing Brian McCann on his first hook of the night. Jair Jurrjens out-Mortoned Charlie; he threw nine pitches and got three bounce outs.
After an out in the second, Alex Gonzalez collected the first knock of the game, a ground single into left. Freddie Freeman quickly got the second, lining a sinker above the ankle into left on a hit-and-run to put runners on the corners. Morton hung a 1-2 curve to light-hitting Brooks Conrad, who lifted a sac fly to right, putting the Braves up, 1-0.
The Bucs put two on with two out thanks to Lyle Overbay and Chris Snyder singles. Ronny Cedeno roped a ball, but right at first baseman Freeman, and the Pirates stranded a pair.
Jordan Shafer drew a five pitch walk to open the third. Morton's first pitch to Martin Prado was an inside corner, belt-high heater; he turned on it and grounded it up the line past Wood to double home Shafer and make it 2-0. CM came back to get a K and bounce out, and retired Eric Hinske after a tough eight-pitch at-bat, catching him looking.
Jurrjens put the Bucs down in order; he threw 29 pitches in three innings, and 26 were strikes. Morton recovered his juju in the fourth; five pitches, three ground balls. JJ was on cruise control; it took him nine pitches to sit the Pirates down.
Morton gave up a leadoff knock to Jurrjens, who dropped a ball into right with an 0-2 count; a pitch over the plate in that count was Charlie's bad. A soft liner and a diving stop for the force out by Overbay put two away. Chipper Jones drilled a first-pitch, ground rule double after a fan snagged the ball (with his hat) and saving a run. The Braves got a review; the ruling stood, and the Bucs got out of the inning without any damage.
Chris Snyder collected a one-out single, and Cedeno followed with a knock into center. Charlie didn't help his own cause, popping out on a bunt attempt. No difference; McCutch popped out, too.
With one away, Alex Gonzalez smacked a ground rule double over the railing in left. A grounder moved him to third, and the eight hitter, Conrad, was walked intentionally. Morton was a little more careful with his mound opponent this time around, and got a bouncer to second to shut the door in the sixth.
Jose Tabata started off with an infield single that was deflected by Jurrjens, and Garrett Jones followed with a four pitch walk. Neil Walker got a heater up and in, but was late and popped it up into short left. Overbay killed the inning with an undisciplined at-bat; he never saw a pitch over the dish, yet tapped into a 1-6-3 DP on a 2-2 count after being ahead 2-0.
Morton still had plenty in the tank; he 1-2-3'ed the Braves on seven tosses. Wood got ahead 3-0, but JJ came back with heaters and got him to pop out; the rep was that Wood had trouble with curves, but high and hard seems to expose a hole in his swing, too. Snyder K'ed after a long at-bat, and Cedeno hit a comebacker.
Brian McCann greeted Morton with a single rolled up the middle, and Clint Hurdle trotted out Joe Beimel to face Hinske. He filled the bill, getting Hinske on an around-the-horn DP. Gonzalez quickly replaced the runner, pushing the ball up the left side for a bunt single. Freeman bounced out, and the Bucs had six outs left to get something going.
Morton had another solid outing, going seven innings and giving up two runs on seven hits with three walks (one intentional) and four whiffs, tossing 94 pitches.
Xavier Paul K'ed to start the eighth; McCutch took one to the wall in straightaway center for the second out. Tabata singled solidly to right, and after 97 pitches, Jurrjens hit the showers, working on a six hit shutout with a walk and four Ks. Lefty Jonny Venters came on, and so did Matt Diaz. Venters, with an 0.64 ERA and nasty slider/fastball combo, easily won the battle, whiffing Diaz on four pitches.
Evan Meek got back on the MLB bike for the ninth. His first two offerings were balls, but he settled down and struck out Joe Mather. Then he got Wilfred Ramirez swinging; ditto Jordan Shafer. He was wearing out his cutter on the inside part of the dish, and it looks like his virus/tendinitis double whammy has been put to bed. Welcome back, Evan Meek.
Craig Kimbrel took the hill to try to close it out for Atlanta. And he did in style, striking out a pair. Well, at least Paul Maholm has someone else to swap war stories with now.
Mike Minor, a AAA call-up to replace Tim Hudson, will face James McDonald tomorrow afternoon in the get-away game.
-- Dejan Kovacevic of the Post-Gazette noted that Pittsburgh has scored three runs or less in 23 of their 47 contests, and are 3-20. Good pitching can only carry a team so far...