With an out, Christian Yelich banged a ball up the middle. Morton came back to K Giancarlo Stanton on a hook before plunking Logan Morrison with a pitch. That hurt in a couple of ways as Donovan Solano singled to right to make it 3-1 before Ground Chuck got the last out.
After looking at two fastballs down the middle, Mercer offered at a pitch off the plate and rolled it to second to open the second. Charlie lined out to first and Marte bounced out as Koehler recovered quickly. Morton tossed a lot of pitches, especially for the bottom of the order, but worked a clean frame.
Walker opened the third by ripping a fastball up the middle, followed by a Cutch single to put Bucs at first and second. Pedro bounced into a force to put Pirates on the corners. Jones followed with a right side seeing eye knock to score Walker and move Pedro to second. El Toro came around when The Fort banged a single through the right side. Snider was out on a tapper in front of the plate, moving up the runners and setting up Mercer for an intentional walk. Morton tried; his fly to medium right center wasn't much of a threat, though. 5-1 is a pretty good start.
With an out, Morton fed an 0-2 hook down the middle to Yelich, who sent it into center. Cutch didn't come up with the knock cleanly, and the Marlin made it into second on the boot. Stanton doubled in a run, then Morrison blooped a single to left, scoring Giancarlo and moved to second when Marte threw the ball to the screen. The Bucs aren't exactly putting on an OF clinic this inning. After another out, Placido Polanco rolled one into right, and it's 5-4. Jake Marisnick hit an infield single to the left side before Rob Brantly whiffed. Lotta curves and four seamers from Charlie; maybe The Fort should waggle for a few more sinking two seamers.
Cutch drew a two out walk in the fourth, but Koehler punched out Pedro, who's seen two fastballs in three at-bats. Morton worked a clean frame, using 12 pitches to get a pair of K. After Jones whiffed on a high heater to start the fifth, Mike McKenry collected his third hit, doubling high off the wall in center. Snider bounced out, Mercer was walked intentionally again, and Morton K'ed to end that threat. Stanton started the Fish off with a single to center, and Lo Mo followed with another knock up the middle off Mercer's mitt. Solano eased the pressure by banging into a first pitch 6-3 DP, with Mercer perfectly stationed. Morton went up 0-2 on Polanco, and then tossed a pair of balls a mile off the plate; The Fort had to be nimble to snag them. But he did return to the strike zone and whiffed Polanco.
Ryan Webb took the bump in the sixth, and Marte greeted him with a single to center off SS Hechavarria's leather. On an 0-2 count to Walker, Webb hung a slider down the middle and The Kid roped it into right to plate Marte, who was going on the pitch, with a double. Cutch popped out foul into short right on a nice running grab by Morrison; Walker tagged to third. Pedro whiffed for the third time; maybe it's time to rethink this cleanup thing. Jones whiffed too, watching a pair of heaters down the middle and then swinging through a low and tight slider. After a 5-for-8 start in RISP, the Bucs are back to their more likely 0-for-7 effort.
Morton was done. He went five, giving up four runs (three earned) on nine hits with six K, tossing 82 pitches. Justin Wilson got the ball, and Gaby came on, too, in a two-fer switch. Wilson worked a quiet frame, with a whiff and pair of pop outs.
Lefty Dan Jennings came on for the Fish, and McKenry collected his fourth knock to open the seventh. JT pinch hit and flew out to right. Mercer hit into a force; The Fort, who went hard into second, came up limping and was taken to the locker room; he may have jammed his knee on the bag. Gaby came up and stroked a liner into the SS hole, but Hechavarria made a sweet diving catch to end the inning. The Fort returned to action, and after a pair of routine outs, Wilson walked Stanton on four pitches, then Morrison softly rolled a single the opposite way into left. That brought out Clint Hurdle, who tapped the right arm for Bryan Morris. He got Solano to bounce the first pitch to short for the 6-4 force and put the inning to bed.
Jennings got by lefty-mashers Mercer, Sanchez and Marte, but with two outs, couldn't sneak past Cutch, who tripled into the LF corner as the ball briefly rolled between Yelich's legs. The out he should have been able to get he couldn't; Pedro fought off an inside offering and dropped a bloop into center to score McCutchen and make it 7-4. Morris stayed on for the eighth, with Tony Watson getting loose in the pen. With an out, Wilson lost Marisnick on four pitches. JT made a nice sliding grab of Brantly's soft liner, and with LH Greg Dobbs announced, Hurdle called in Watson. Tony sat Dobbs down as he swung through some high heat.
AJ Ramos tossed a quiet ninth. JT spanked one up the middle, but a timely hop allowed a sliding Hechavarria to glove it and save the hit. McKenry was limping noticeably after his ground out - he didn't even run it out - but put the tools back on to save Russ Martin for tomorrow (although Martin was sitting in the dugout with his pads on, ready to go; catchers are a different breed.) Mark Melancon took the hill for the finish. It wasn't pretty, but he tucked Miami away. He fell behind every batter in the frame, losing Hechavarria to open. A nine pitch battle with Yelich ended with a 4-6-3 DP. Stanton kept them alive with a chop to third for an infield knock, and Morrison got ahead 2-0 in the count before bouncing out to Gaby. It took 21 pitches, but Mark the Shark did his bit, saving the game for Charlie Morton's third win.
Today was a bit of a setback for Morton, but like AJ, he could use a little more D behind him. We talk about pitchers regressing down and hitters regressing up, but if the fielding regresses to the norm, the Bucs will be losing their most dependable weapon.
Gerrit Cole goes against Marlin ace Jose Fernandez tomorrow afternoon before coming home for the biggest series in years, a five game set against the Cards. They lost today, so the gap currently sits at 1-1/2 games.
- This was Mike McKenry's first MLB four-hit game. Neil Walker had three knocks, with a pair of deep flies to go with them. The Fort, The Kid and Garrett Jones each had two RBI. The Bucs finished * praise the Lord * 6-for-17 with RISP (1-for-9 in the last six frames after a sizzling start).
- Jordy Mercer's hitting streak ended at 11 games tonight; he was twice walked intentionally
- The Fish FO gave Gaby a box suite last night for the ex-Marlin's friends and family on his return to Miami in a Pirate uniform.
- Clint Hurdle announced that AJ will work the first game of Tuesday's DH against St. Louis; he was coy about the nitecap. We speculate that Jeanmar Gomez and Vin Mazzaro are the possibilities for the second contest; that kinda shortens up the bullpen for a spell. The Cardinals will open with Tyler Lyons and follow with Lance Lynn.