Impressive beginning for Charlie Morton - three up, three down on seven pitches, five for strikes. Josh Harrison opened with a four pitch walk off Edwin Jackson. He never moved, with Cutch flying out between a pair of swinging K.
With an out in the second, Luis Valbuena pushed a bunt along the left side for the game's first hit. No more of that; Charlie whiffed the next pair of Bruins. Pedro banged a fastball into center to start the Buc half. Marte missed a bunt try, then smoked a tight fastball up the 3B line past a diving Valbueno for a double and RBI. Jordy became the third straight Buc to square up, but his liner found 2B Emilio Bonafacio's glove. Chris Stewart ended that streak with a tapper to the hill, and Morton took his three swings to end the frame.
It was another clean frame for Morton in the third. He's been a strike machine, with 22 balls over the dish in 29 offerings. Travis went the opposite way for a ground rule double after one was gone. Cutch got a 1-2 heater pretty much down the middle and did what he does; he knocked opposite way over the Clemente Wall to make it 3-0. Ike went down on a liner and Pedro whiffed to end the frame.
Starlin Castro beat out a bleeder with two gone in the fourth, but two more pitches ended the frame. Neither of the Cub knocks has made it past the mound. Marte rolled over for a groundout, Jordy whiffed chasing a slider and Stewart hit a soft pop to center; the bottom of the order looked a little caffeinated at the dish.
Charlie took care of the bottom of the order in the fifth. With two away, Snider dropped a flare into left. Apparently Jackson is a slow learner. He gave Cutch another fastball down the middle, and this time it resulted in a double off the Clemente Wall, with Travis scoring easily on an awkward (and needless) slide after the relay throw had been dropped. Ike walked on five pitches, and even the strike call was sketchy. Pedro went down swinging; he's a different hitter from at-bat to at-bat.
With two gone in the sixth, Rizzo singled up the middle off Pedro's glove against the shift, and Castro ripped the next pitch into right center wall for a run-scoring double, the ball not being tracked particularly well by Snider. A K ended the frame with the Bucs up 4-1.
It's nice to see Marte partay again; he opened with a one-base liner to left and quickly swiped second. Mercer rolled over on a slider down and on the outside half, but hit it weakly enough to short to advance Starling. Stewart bunted through a squeeze that was virtually a pitchout. It looked like they had an idea it was coming, since Clint tries it so often. At any rate, they caught Marte on the way home, and it went down as a caught stealing. Stew bounced out to end the frame.
After two fairly well hit balls were turned into outs by Cutch in the seventh, John Baker rolled one through the right side for a knock. Justin Ruggiano grabbed some wood for Jackson, and he made a trifecta by flying out to Andrew.
Even though he was working a strong game and at just 82 pitches, Clint sent JT up to hit for Charlie; probably the fly balls were a red flag. But it was a good outing; one run on six hits with seven K and no walks or even HBP. Carlos Villanueva climbed the hill. He walked Snider with two outs; the Cubs must love pitching to Cutch. Carlos had a better game plan than Jackson, and fed Cutch off-speed stuff with one show-me fastball, getting him on a foul tip off a 3-2 change.
In came Mark the Shark for the eighth, and he tucked the Cubs away on seven pitches, though Anthony Rizzo did drive one to The Notch and Marte's mitt. He's been mixing up his pitches with a curve and fastball, and it's made him more effective, if that's possible.
Ike got ahead of Villanueva 2-0, and got the fastball that Cutch was waiting on, bombing it into the pitcher's eye in center. Jason Grilli can sit down; no save tonight. Pedro doubled to right center on the next pitch, a change than ran over the plate. Marte doubled inside first to score another run. Jordy bounced to third; Valbueno dropped the ball to keep the music humming. Then came some sour notes: Stewart went down swinging, Gaby hit into a force, and Josh flew out to the right field track. Still, 6-1 is a good place to be.
Jared Hughes took the ball, and watched Castro jog around the bases after losing a ball in the bullpen. Following two ground outs, Chris Coghlan rolled one past first for a double. Baker hit a fly to Marte, and the Bucs were off to a running start against the Cubbies.
Back-to-back strong starts were just what the doctor ordered, and hopefully Chicago keeps on pitching to Cutch. The Cubs are the object that is closer than it seems in the rear view mirror. They've won 5-of-7, and are just three games behind Bucs in the loss column, even with tonight's loss. The Pirates are at a point where they have to worry about the clubs that are ahead of them, not the ones that are chasing them, and tonight was a good start.
In a match up of lefties, Travis Wood and Francisco Liriano get it on tomorrow night.
- For Morton, this was the first time in 13 starts this year that he hadn't walked a man. He had issued 11 free passes in his last three games to go with four hit batsmen.
- Starling Marte broke an 0-for-23 snap tonight with three hits, including two doubles.
- Ike's homer was his first hit this month, breaking an 0-for-20 slump.
- There was a little pre-game buzz when Gregory Polanco was not in Indy's lineup tonight, but he was dressed and on the bench for the Tribe, so it was just a tease (we think).
- Hey, something to look forward to: Chris Cotillo of The Inside Dish tweeted that the Pirates agreed with first-round SS Cole Tucker on an under-slot $1.8M signing bonus, which will be announced Wednesday. The pool value of the #24 slot was $1.9255M. Peter Gammons said the Bucs took him at that spot because the Oakland A's were on him with the next pick if he was available.