Familiar script for Morton
In the top of the first, Charlie Morton missed his spot on a 0-1 fastball and Adam Lind made him pay by driving a two-run home run over the right-center wall.
"There's no mystery there. I made a bad pitch," Morton said. "I just threw a four-seamer right down the middle. I tried to get him on the hands and run it in there and tried to keep it true right on his hands and I threw it right down the middle."
Morton is no stranger to early runs this season. The two he allowed in the first tonight drove his first-inning ERA up to 9.15. Morton has now allowed first-inning runs in nine of his 20 starts.
"After I threw that pitch [to Lind] I didn't feel like I was up against the ropes and sometimes I have [felt that way]," Morton said of his first inning challenges. "Sometimes I don't feel like I know where the ball is going, I may not have a good feel. Sometimes it's just that I threw a bad pitch. That's how you have to look at it."
Early runs haven't generally led to terrible outings for Morton. In games that he's allowed first-inning runs and made it out of the inning, Morton has averaged close to five additional innings pitched and allowed only 1.38 additional runs (2.53 ERA). In other words, Morton has generally settled down and put together decent outings after early trouble. Tonight followed that script.
Chris Stewart explained that it's not unusual for pitchers who rely on a lot of sinking movement, like Morton, to run into trouble early.
"I think he's just got to get a feel for that sinker early," Stewart said. "Like tonight, we tried to get the sinker going early and he left one over the plate. It's all about getting that going and everything just feeds off of that. Sometimes the bullpen mound is a little different than the game mound and it takes a little while to adjust."
After Lind's homer, Morton allowed only one hit and shut out the Brewers for the next five innings.
"His fastball location picked up," Clint Hurdle said. "Again we got ambushed early. Fastballs were up early. As the game went on the fastball-sinker command got sharper."
On the night, he allowed three hits over six innings. Morton walked two and struck out two.
Stewart's big night
Stewart did a little bit of everything tonight. At the plate, he went 3-for-4 with three RBIs.
Following last night's extra-inning loss when they couldn't buy a key hit, Stewart helped the Pirates break through with a bases-loaded, ground-ball single past the left-side of the infield in the fourth to score two runs and put the Pirates up 3-2.
Stewart put the Pirates up 4-2 in the sixth with a RBI single that again found a way through left side of the infield.
"I found every hole in that field tonight, it seemed like," Stewart said.
Finally, in the eighth he legged out a bunt-single.
"I always like to use my speed," the catcher joked.
Defensively, Stewart helped Morton pull things back together after the two-run first. He later picked Logan Schafer off first base to end the seventh.
"He's got a good touch and feel for [the pitcher's] stuff," Hurdle said. "He's able to adapt game plans when maybe pitches aren't there to sharpen guys up. He's very aware of the ground ball zone we need to go to. He's definitely a student of the game."
Pirates hitters will occasionally point their temples following hit. Stewart did it a couple times tonight and he explained what it means afterwards.
"That's letting everybody know that [it was] a smart hit," he said with a grin.
A ‘smart hit' is a ball that may not be well struck, but finds a hole to drop in or get through.
"Anytime you can keep it away from a guy and get it on the grass it's going to be knock," Stewart said. "We try to preach around here that it doesn't matter how hard you hit you hit it as long as you hit it where they're not. That's smart hitting."