Let's see...the Reds went into tonight with a five game winning streak; the Bucs with a six game losing streak. Charlie Morton had 'em right where he wanted 'em!
Hey, the first inning looked like it was gonna be one of those games where the last at-bat wins. Neil Walker whacked a 3-2 delivery off the wall with Garrett Jones aboard and two away; but two things conspired to keep the Bucs off the board.
Walker hit the ball to the wrong spot - he ended up with just a single as it ricocheted straight back to the fielder - and Jones didn't get a real good break, considering the count and outs. So Bronson Arroyo escaped unscathed.
But the Reds pulled off a mirror image frame. With two away, a Joey Votto knock followed by a Brandon Phillips bouncing double created some sizzle but no fire.
After that, it was a couple of innings of some good pitching as the game settled down. Then the Pirates struck. After a pop out, The Pittsburgh Kid drew a walk and Jones singled to right. Pedro got a meatball down the middle, and instead of swinging through it (as he did the last at-bat when he K'ed) he bombed it 414' into the right field stands to give the Buccos a 3-0 lead.
The Reds tried to answer with a two-out walk and single up the middle, but the runners were stranded. The fifth and sixth passed with a little action but no real threats, and then the Buc Bombers buzzed again in the seventh.
Ronny Cedeno led off with a double to left (his third consecutive multi-hit game) and he was nicely advanced to third by a Morton sac bunt. No need for small ball, though. McCutch wanted to lift the ball with the infield in to plate RC, and did he ever. He ripped his eighth homer of the year, a 423' shot into left center, and it was 5-0.
The rest of the game played out quietly; the Reds mounted a two-out, first-and-third threat (the only Cincy runner to reach the hot corner) in the eighth, but Morton retired Votto on his way to his second complete game and fifth win with a 2.62 ERA. He may not be ace material, but he's sure as close as Pittsburgh has to one.
Morton threw a five hitter, walking two and K'ing five while tossing a fairly economical 106 pitches. More impressive than his pitching has been his cool and collected persona on the mound; maybe he has finally switched on the light. His only red flag during the first few weeks of the season has been retiring lefties; his sinker runs away and over the plate to them.
But so far, so good. His command and control has been improving every start, and when he can work the lefties off the dish a little more, he'll be the complete package.
Tomorrow's get-away game will match James McDonald and Johnny Cueto at 12:35 PM.
-- Today's 2011 question: is Ronny Cedeno going through one of periodic spurts where he shows off his tools, or has Clint Hurdle and company found his on switch? His fielding has been steady after a rough start and his UZR/150 is 18.7 going into tonight's game, far and away MLB's best mark. RC is hitting .328 over the past four weeks after batting .192 in April.
If he does come around, he'll fill a huge hole in the Bucco lineup. And this will be the year that makes or breaks him in Pittsburgh.