Charlie Morton has become a changed pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Over the years Morton has had a tendency to allow an inning get away from him. It was often said that if a ball was going to find grass, it always would against the Bucs sinkerballer. If there was a picture of bad luck pitcher, Charlie Morton would certainly sit for the portrait. Thankfully, it seems to be a thing of the past. Now Morton takes matters into his own right hand.
Electric Stuff was battling against the Cubs most of the night. A runner here or there thanks to scattering four hits over six innings. The maturity for Morton showed itself to me during the fifth inning.
The Bucs had one out in the fifth inning with two runners on base behind Morton thanks to some shoddy Bucco defense. With one away in the inning Jordy Mercer was positioned in a shift behind second base. Mercer had to run hard to his right to field a ground ball. He dropped it.
Runner on first.
Pedro Alvarez then fielded a bunt in front of the mound, but rushed his throw to second, one hopping it to Mercer who dropped the ball.
Runner on first and second. Morton took a deep breath and tugged on the bill of his hat. In the past, this situation would most certainly turn into a run for the opposition. But not tonight.
Morton never faltered in his confidence. It was the new Electric Stuff….a more confident Pirates pitcher. One that couldn’t thank the Bucs enough for signing him to a three year deal before the season.
The right hander was about to shut down the biggest semblance of an offensive threat for the Cubs. He got a flyout before getting ahead quickly on Luis Valbeuna thanks to his breaking ball. The one Morton dropped in for strike two got Valbeuna out ahead swinging and missing. Then on another breaking ball, Morton got a check swing but didn’t get the strike three call. However he had set up the Cubs left handed hitter up beautifully. A 92 mile an hour fastball, buried low and inside got a foul ball off Valbeuna’s right foot.
The sexy pitch came next. It was a beauty of a breaking ball that got another whiff, Morton’s sixth of the night, to end the Cubs threat.
It was tremendous to watch the new, wealthier, perhaps more focused Morton trust whatever sign Russell Martin dropped.
Morton was clinging to a 1-0 lead thanks to a Jordy Mercer RBI single. The Pirates offense came up empty again in the fifth and Ground Chuck went back to work. With one out and one on, Morton took a line shot off his glove hand as the ball shot toward second base, turning into a slick 1-6-3 double play.
Everyone in the dugout was looking at Morton’s left thumb as the Pirates batted in the bottom of the sixth. Nothing is broken, nothing is fractured. It sounds like it will be sore for a few days.
But the real story is Morton makes his pitches despite the fact the lineup is stacked with left handers. No longer are left handed hitters going to be feared by Ground Chuck, he has weapons for left handers said Hurdle after the game.
Six shutout innings. Six strikeouts. Front door sliders. Circle/Split/Vulcan/Whatever changeups to left handers. Confidence. Ground balls. Nearly a victory if Grilli and Melancon don’t give up runs. But all in all, just another solid outing from Charlie Morton.
The hardest hit of the night had knocked him out of the game, but Morton turned it into a double play. We vividly remember Morton never having such good fortune earlier in his career.
Times have changed and it’s awesome to see.