Lots of errors, more stolen bases
The Pirates gave away a lot of bases via stolen bases and errors tonight.
Charlie Morton entered the game having not allowed a stolen base in any of his four starts this season. By the fifth inning, the Reds had swiped four bases.
In his postgame presser, Hurdle said that the stolen bases were largely a product of Morton's slow delivery time to the plate. "It was a little bit complicated for Charlie tonight with the stuff that he had. The delivery time was a little slow," Hurdle said.
Chris Stewart, who only committed one throwing error in 844.1 innings last season, threw two costly ones into center field on stolen base attempts. Arguably, Jordy Mercer could have played the second one much better and blocked it before any more damage was done. To cap off a dreary defensive performance, Andrew McCutchen misplayed a single in the top of ninth, allowing Billy Hamilton to advance to second.
Loss of control
With the Pirates ahead 2-1 through the fourth, it looked like Charlie Morton was cruising. However, in the fifth Morton struggled with his control. He started the inning by hitting Devin Mesoraco with a pitch, then walked Ramon Santiago. A few batters latter he walked Brandon Phillips. By the end of the inning, the Reds had picked up three runs and a 4-2 lead.
Morton said that he just lost his "feel" in the fifth. "I'm literally missing where I'm trying to throw the ball by three feet, I'm just pulling the ball, pulling it across my body," Morton said. "It was similar to what happened in the last game I pitched against Milwaukee."
On the night, Morton threw 108 pitches, only 59 for strikes.
Morton's control issues have been rather odd this season. They seem to arise suddenly and in short bursts. Overall, his numbers compare rather favorably to 2013, as his walk percentage (6.4), pitches in the zone percentage (51.8), and strike percentage (69) are all improved. However, he has hit five batters, tying him for most hit batsmen in the league.
"He did have some command issues that kind of got on him in the fifth inning," Hurdle said. "He did have seven three ball counts, first pitch strikes were down, 12-out-of-27, only nine hitters retired on three pitches or less, when Charlie's on his game he is usually more efficient than that."
Where's Ground Chuck?
Morton led all starters in Major League Baseball last year with a groundball percentage of 62.9. Tonight, he induced groundballs on 50 percent of batted balls (which includes hits), dropping his season groundball rate to 51 percent. While batted balls were at a 50 percent clip, he did get eight ground ball outs (two line outs, one fly out, two pop outs).
Russell Martin's late scratch
Russell Martin was originally schedule to start at catcher and bat fifth tonight. About 45 minutes before the game, he was removed from the lineup. Hurdle's explanation for the scratch was that he was unable to check with Martin before the game and that they worked out that today was a good day for a spot rest.
Hurdle has talked a lot this season about hitters being stubborn with their approach. On a night when the Bucs only managed two runs, they did work some counts and force Reds' pitchers to throw 151 pitches. In fact, both Pirates runs came off of plate appearances in which the count was worked to 3-and-2. In the first inning, with the bases loaded, Travis Snider worked the count to full, before drawing a run scoring walk. In the third, Andrew McCutchen led off the inning with solo home run on a 3-and-2 pitch.
"We continue to talk about how stubborn we can be with our approach," Hurdle said. "We had a lot of 1-and-0 counts that turned into outs, we did some things that put us in good position to do some things and gave us shots and opportunities, but we have to continue to work for that consistency we're going to need."