Not a great start; Charlie Morton plunked Drew Stubbs to start the game. Zack Cozart was up there hacking, and rolled a ground ball into left on a 3-2 pitch to put runners on the corners. Joey Votto hit a dribbler on a 3-1 pitch, and Cozart moved to second as Votto was thrown out. Brandon Phillips went down swinging at a sinker. After falling behind Jay Bruce 2-1, Morton intentionally walked him to juice the bases. He got within a strike of ending the inning, going 1-2 on Miguel Cairo but the thunder and lightning rumbled, the rains fell again, and the umps chased the players off the field.
The game restarted at 9:40 and surprisingly after the long delay, Morton was sent back to the hill. He got Cairo to bounce out to short to pull the third rabbit out of his cap on a nice stop and bang-bang force at second authored by Chase d'Arnaud, and the Reds scored zip in the first.
Alex Presley opened up the Buc half by legging out an infield single on a ball rolled to the right side. d'Arnaud grounded into a 6-4 force. Neil Walker lined a knock into center and d'Arnaud stopped at second. McCutch banged the first pitch to short; this time the Reds turned the DP 6-4-3.
After getting two quick outs on four pitches, Dontrelle Willis lined a sinker into center and Morton lost Stubbs on a 3-2 pitch. Cozart popped out, but between the delay and a pitch count of 54, Morton probably isn't going too deep tonight, and the bullpen is short after being rode hard the last two days at Houston. Willis cruised through the second, getting a pair of K's.
Morton pitched a clean third against the middle of the Red order, whiffing Phillips and Jay. Willis kept dealing, putting down the Bucs in order with two more K's.
Morton hit Cairo with the first pitch of the fourth, and Fred Lewis bunted him over. He got Ramon Hernandez to ground out to third, bringing up D-Train, who almost got the Reds on the board with a long drive to center that McCutch ran down at the wall.
d'Arnaud roped a single to center to open the Bucco half of the fourth. Walker fouled off four pitches before lining a knock into right. d'Arnaud went aggressively to third, beating the throw with a hard, headfirst slide, and The Pittsburgh Kid took second. McCutch bounced weakly to short, and it was soft enough to plate d'Arnaud and get Walker to third. Matt Diaz lifted a fly into right, and it brought in Walker to make it 2-0. Gotta love small ball.
Facing the top of the order, Morton got the 1-2 hitters before Votto singled to right. He got Phillips on a fly to Diaz, and at 87 pitches has done a nice job after a labored start.
Wood started the Pirate fifth with a lined single to left. McKenry poked a low changeup off the dish to second for a 4-6-3 DP. Morton drew a two-out walk. That was it for D-Train. He wasn't real happy about getting Dusty Baker's hook, but hey, walk the pitcher and bad things happen. Jeremy Horst came on to face The King. Presley singled to center, but Horst got pinch hitter Josh Harrison, who replaced d'Arnaud, on a fly.
d'Arnaud had been checked out by the trainer in the dugout after his slide last inning, banging his noggin off a knee. He had a stiff neck, was pulled after it tightened up, and will be evaluated after the game. His status is day-to-day.
Morton was done, and he did a great job battling through the delay and then the 50+ pitches through two. He turned over a lead and saved the pen. He went five innings, giving up three hits, two walks, two hit batters, and three K's. Tony Watson came on, with Harrison going to third and Wood to short. It took Watson nine tosses to get three ground outs, helped by a nice barehand play by Harrison and a sweet pick by Lyle Overbay.
After getting Walker on a fly and McCutch due up, Horst was yanked for Sam LeCure. The strategy worked. He got McCutchen to bounce to second on a 3-2 sinker and Diaz on a pop. After six, it was still 2-0 Pittsburgh.
Watson put down the Reds routinely in the seventh, and used only seven pitches; he's taking a page from Jeff Karstens' book. LeCure did his job, too, putting Pittsburgh away in order. Watson stayed on for the Bucs. His streak of eight straight outs was ended when Phillips reached first on a questionable catcher's interference call on McKenry (Phillips swung at a ball in the dirt), followed by a walk to Bruce.
That brought on D-Mac to face Cairo, as both usual set up men, Chris Resop (tight forearm) and Jose Veras (high pitch count), were called "questionable" for today's game by Clint Hurdle. Xavier Paul dusted off his glove and took over in right. The place was still rocking; the 15,000 or so that remained through the rain delays were pumped. Cairo popped up to McKenry, and there were three outs to go.
Aroldis Chapman took the hill for Cincy. He got Paul swinging at a 101 MPH heater. Presley got the same stuff; he lined out to left. Harrison went down swinging at a 91 MPH slider. Chapman's first fastball of the frame was timed at 98; his last at 102. Nice sideshow; now it was Hanny time.
Joel Hanrahan struck out Edgar Renteria swinging at a slider. Ramon Hernandez bounced out to short. Chris Heisey did the same, and the Pirates won 2-0 as the house roared its approval, as well it should. The Brew Crew lost to Arizona 3-0, and Pittsburgh is in sole possession of first place this morning, 1/2 game ahead of the Red Birds and Brewers. Yep, been a long time coming - 1992 was the last time they were on top in July.
Charlie Morton did an outstanding job, working out of trouble and an 83 minute rain delay to give Pittsburgh five shut out innings. Tony Watson was an ump's shaky call away from a nine-up, nine-down outing. D-Mac nailed the third out to escape an inherited jam, and The Hammer did his thing.
Chase d'Arnaud's baserunning was the key to the Bucs scoring twice; they still may be playing if he stopped at second on Walker's hit. His diving stop and flip in the first killed the only truly serious threat the Reds had. After all the years of making just enough plays to lose, the Pirates are now making enough plays to win.
Tomorrow night's pitchers will be RHP Mike Leake (8-4, 4.28) and James McDonald (5-4, 4.42).
- Charlie Morton has thrown 23 innings against the Reds this season in three starts, giving up one earned run and 13 hits. This was the first time he didn't pitch a complete game against them.
- Neil Walker has a twelve game hitting streak going, the longest streak of the year for Pittsburgh.
- The attendance was 22,016, not bad for a dark and stormy Monday night. Arnie Palmer and his wife Kathleen were among the faithful.
- The Pirates haven't lost back-to-back games since dropping four straight June 17-20th against the Indians and Orioles.
- Jeff Karstens was named the National League's Player of the Week today after his five-hit, 83 pitch shutout against Houston on Friday. He's the first Bucco hurler to earn the honor outright since Todd Ritchie won the recognition for the week of 6/11-17, 2001.
- McCutch's sliding catch under Neil Walker yesterday was chosen as the MLB.com Play of the Day.
- Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated tweeted that the Bucs are looking at the Padre relievers for sale: Mike Adams, Heath Bell, and Chad Qualls. Bell's not a fit (Pittsburgh has a pretty fair closer already), but Qualls and Adams are, although we expect them to be quite popular and therefor quite costly.
- Jen Langosch of MLB.com added that "the Pirates were known to have a scout watching the Rockies over the weekend. Colorado...would likely be willing to listen to offers on relievers Huston Street, Rafael Betancourt and Matt Belisle." Chatroom talk has the Pirates scouting a few Rox, from the MLB level (Ryan Spilborghs and Aaron Cook were mentioned) to AA, with heavy input from the old Colorado skipper Clint Hurdle.
- Great Googly Moogly! The Pirates will be on ESPN's Monday Night Baseball next Monday, July 25th, when they visit Atlanta. And we thought only the Steelers were on Monday Nights. Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune Review hears that the Bucs are also "under consideration for ESPN Sunday Nite and/or Fox Saturday Game of the Week broadcasts."
- Stetson Allie, the Bucs fireballing second round pick of last year, had his first scoreless outing (of three innings) for the State College Spikes yesterday. The goose egg lowered his ERA to 4.50. He has 20 strikeouts and 14 walks over 18 innings/6 appearances.