video thumbnail

PIT@MIA: Morton strikes out six over seven frames

MIAMI -- The Pirates gave up four runs in the ninth inning for a second straight game, but they were able to hang on for an 8-6 victory over the Marlins on Saturday at Marlins Park.

With the win, the Pirates are now 34-34, which puts them back at .500 for the first time since April 17.

Pittsburgh may still be 6 1/2 games out of first place, but manager Clint Hurdle has been impressed with the resilience of his team. After getting off to a 10-16 start, the Pirates are 24-19 since May 1.

"If you believe you can play, you gotta go out and play," Hurdle said. "That's what we're doing."

But for the second game in a row, the Pirates' bullpen failed to keep the Marlins off the board in the ninth inning. Stolmy Pimentel, who threw just 10 pitches in the eighth, gave up a pair of two-run homers in the ninth to put the Marlins within two runs of a tie.

Hurdle brought in closer Jason Grilli for the last out of the inning, which gave him a chance to redeem himself following a four-walk, three-run performance on Friday. He allowed a baserunner but delivered a scoreless performance and recorded his 11th save of the year.

As for Pittsburgh's offense, it was hard to pin Saturday's success on one part of the lineup. Each starter registered at least one hit, and all but three of them scored a run.

And although Gregory Polanco -- who went 2-for-5 with a walk -- didn't do all the damage on his own, he played a big enough role and was responsible for three of the Bucs' runs. Seven of his 10 career hits have come in this series.

The Pirates took a 2-0 lead with four straight hits in the second inning. Jordy Mercer led off with a homer, his fourth of the season. Then the bottom of the order strung together three singles for Polanco, who grounded into a forceout that scored Pedro Alvarez.

Andrew McCutchen extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a single in the third, but it was his fourth-inning homer that blew the game open early. The three-run shot, McCutchen's seventh June home run, allowed his team to jump ahead of the Marlins, 5-0.

Starter Charlie Morton, who received the victory, was also crucial for the Pirates. He gave up just two runs in seven innings and is now 4-5 with a 2.59 ERA in his past 10 starts.

He threw 108 pitches -- 26 more than he did in the same number of innings against the Cubs in his previous start -- but he was able to keep the ball out of the air (just three fly balls) and induce nine groundouts.

"You know he's always going to get a bunch of ground balls," Mercer said. "You're always on your toes each and every pitch."

Morton let the Marlins take back two runs in their half of the fourth. After striking out the leadoff hitter, he allowed a walk, an RBI triple into the right-field corner and an RBI groundout. Although he did allow a single after that, he was able to rebound by inducing a groundout to get out of the inning.

Morton retired eight of the next nine batters he faced and exited after inducing his third double play of the game to end the seventh inning. He lowered his ERA to 3.09.

"The three double plays played huge," Hurdle said. "They kept him in the game; they got him through seven innings. The curveball wasn't as sharp and tight as it was last time, but he was able to get the ball where he needed to in a lot of different situations to get away from big innings."

The Pirates sent up nine batters in a three-run, four-hit fifth inning in which they took an 8-2 lead. Josh Harrison led off with a single and immediately tested the strength in his ankle by scoring on a double by Mercer. Morton even helped with his second sacrifice bunt of the afternoon, this one for an RBI. And Polanco drove in the Pirates' final run of the game with a sharp single up the middle for the fifth RBI of his career.

The Pirates' 9-4 June and third straight road series win has also allowed them to make up some ground in the Central standings, where they are two games behind the second-place Cardinals.

MLB.com Comments