Orioles 8, Pirates 3: Birds Kill Charlie Morton With A Million Tiny Pecks

PITTSBURGH - JUNE 20: Pedro Ciriaco #3 of the Pittsburgh Pirates throws to second base against the Baltimore Orioles during the game on June 20, 2011 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Charlie Morton actually struck out the side in the first inning. The problem was that it took 10 batters to do it. The Orioles hit one weakly-hit ball after another, and they all found holes. By the time Jake Arrieta, batting ninth, hit a popup that fell in shallow right, I was really exasperated. 

These last few starts have to have been annoying for Morton. We've seen a ton of bloop hits and seeing-eye grounders, and they've really hurt him. I'm not sure his recent struggles mean a whole lot; they're probably just the result of Morton's luck swinging way back in the other direction having a fair amount of luck at the beginning of the season. Morton's a good pitcher, but he's not an immortal one, and as long as he depends so heavily on the vagaries of balls in play, starts like these are going to happen.

If there's anything about his actual pitching that's a problem, it looks like the Orioles' better hitters weren't swinging at his sinkers that dropped out of the zone - when he got swings and misses, it was mostly with his breaking stuff. Maybe the corrective to that is to throw a few more four-seamers low in the zone. His four-seamer isn't really a great pitch, but it's good enough to be a change of pace that might help him give batters fits with his much-better sinker. Of course, that strategy would be more likely to work if Morton's command were better, and tonight, it wasn't really there. And again, a lot of the Orioles' hits tonight would have been outs if the stars had aligned differently.

After that, whatever. The Bucs didn't completely give up, which is perhaps to their credit. The Pirates' relievers got through seven innings and mostly pitched fine (with Joel Hanrahan pitching in a complete laugher instead of the extra-inning game yesterday). Danny Moskos faced off against Matt Wieters! (Wieters flied out to the track.) And Pedro Ciriaco played for several irrelevant innings. In the photo above, the AP helpfully documents Ciriaco playing baseball for the Pirates, which should help fans who get confused when the Pirates option him six weeks from now.

UPDATE 11:27 PM: Clint Hurdle says that the Pirates might skip Morton's start due to the number of innings he's pitched so far this year. His velocity was a little bit off today - if memory serves, he was topping out at around 93 MPH - so maybe a week off will help. The Bucs have a day off Thursday, so no one else will be affected. Hopefully the Pirates don't think he's hurt, but I wouldn't worry about that at this point.

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