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Charlie Morton leads Pirates to 4-0 shutout of Giants

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

A strong Charlie Morton performance paved the way for the Pirates to shut out the Giants, 4-0, to open the teams' four-game series.

Morton pitched an efficient 6 2-3 innings, striking out eight, walking two and conceding just four hits. He needed just 92 pitches to do that, but was lifted after getting into a seventh-inning jam.

The Pirates gave him an early lead. In the first inning Starling Marte was hit by a pitch and took second when Andrew McCutchen flew out to deep center field, then scored on Aramis Ramirez's book-rule double down the right-field line.

The lead was extended to 2-0 in the third on Jung-Ho Kang's double to right that scored Marte, who had reached on a fielder's choice and stolen second.

Kang led off the sixth with a single, then Neil Walker homered to right to open up a 4-0 lead.

Morton was particularly efficient in the middle innings, facing just 10 batters to get the nine outs in the fourth through sixth innings. He struck out four in that span, the only baserunner coming on a walk to Ryan Lollis.

Morton was rolling into the seventh, when he hit the leadoff batter, Brandon Crawford, with a pitch. He struck out Norichika Aoki, gave up a single to Kelby Tomlinson, then induced a groundout from Lollis. With runners on second and third, a pitch got away from Morton and hit pinch-hitter Ehire Adrianza to load the bases, and Morton's night was done.

Jared Hughes came in and Gregor Blanco hit a liner right at Gregory Polanco to end the threat. Hughes stayed in to pitch a scoreless eighth.

Tony Watson put two on in the ninth, on an Aoki single and and Andrew Susac walk, before getting a Blanco groundout to seal the win.

Marte, Kang and Walker each had two hits. The Pirates got their second straight solid performance from one of the less reliable starting pitchers, this following a solid series last weekend in New York from the back end of the rotation.

St. Louis was idle, so the Pirates pulled to within 4 1/2 games of the Cardinals, though the Cubs were well on their way to a win over Atlanta at press time (ask your grandpa what that means). The Pirates also increased their lead to eight games over the Giants for a wild card spot. It's easy to lose sight of something like that, even though we'd be doing flips about it in previous years. But that's a good thing.