Charlie Morton defines bad luck, soft contact and today he was defined as effectively wild. Morton had little command of his electric stuff early in the game with numerous pitches going to the back stop in the first inning. The right hander settled in under the 85 degree sky and pitched three innings. Morton allowed a run, a walk and two hits.
Jordy Mercer murdered a two-run homerun off Phillies left hander Cole Hamels. The third inning blast gave the Pirates an early 2-0 lead. Mercer sent the ball over the Frenchy’s tiki hut in left field. Watch the video to see this, but not only did the ball clear the tiki bar, but the baseball flew completely out of the stadium.
Mercer is receiving a lot of attention from the Korean media who are in camp to cover Jun Ho Kang. The homer evens him with Kang at one apiece this spring. We don’t make much of the perceived competition at short after hearing Neal Huntington tell the RumBunter Podcast the team should have done a better job of expressing their appreciation for Mercer.
The Pirates shortstop got off to a horrid start in 2014, but came alive and was one of their most consistent hitters over the second half of the season. If Mercer keeps hitting baseballs out of ballparks this spring and carries a hot bat into April, Kang’s role early in the season will certainly be limited.
Mar 6, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Jeff Locke (49) throws a pitch during the first inning against the New York Yankees at a spring training baseball game at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Locke cruised over two innings retiring six straight Phillies. But in his third inning of work, the Pirates southpaw walked Ben Revere. Cesar Hernandez followed with a double to center, setting up the Phillies in the sixth. The double by Hernandez was hit to to the Bright House Field wall. Buccos center fielder Gorkys Hernandez grabbed the ball on a bounce with his bare right hand and fired it to the cut off man which halted Revere from scoring.
Locke then struckout Ryan Howard for the second out of the inning. A shot by Jeff Francouer down the left field line scored Hernandez giving the Phillies a 3-2 lead. Jose Tabata fired to second base and Francouer was dead to rights ending the inning.
John Holdzkom would have had a clean inning, but Steve Lombardozzi got caught between a hop allowing the ball off the bat of Maikel Franco to go into left field. The big Pirates right hander recorded a strikeout in his inning of work, and stranded Franco.
Mar 11, 2015; Clearwater, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton (50) throws a pitch in the first inning of the spring training game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Bright House Field. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
What Stood Out:
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Morton continues to confuse Pirates fans. In the first inning, Morton was not close to the strike zone, but escaped the inning unscathed thanks to a heads up play by Neil Walker who gunned out Ben Revere at home.
Revere walked to lead off the game. Morton threw a pickoff throw away to first, putting the Phillies in business with a runner in scoring position and nobody out. A Ryne Sandberg decision to play small ball gave the Bucs an out and moved Revere to third. A groundball to Walker resulted in the second out at the plate. Morton threw a wild pitch before getting Ryan Howard to flyout to Jose Tabata to get out of the inning without giving up a run.
Morton got seven groundouts over three innings of work.
The performances by Locke and Morton were a mixed bag against one of the worst teams in MLB. After numerous strong pitching performances from the Pirates staff, today’s performance made me re-read Jon Anderson’s article that asked if the Pirates Pitching Staff Has Really Improved
A day after getting beaned with a baseball in the back of the knee, Neil Walker went hitless.
Every Pirates fan catcher-of-the-future kept impressing as Elias Diaz had another hit. The Pirates had only four hits and stranded five baserunners.
Big John was good again.
Sep 19, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher John Holdzkom (43) pitches against the Milwaukee Brewersduring the eighth inning at PNC Park. The Pirates won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Stolmy Pimentel broke out a flat brimmed hat and perhaps it was the key as he got a clean 1-2-3 inning. Pimentel got the first out quickly with three consecutive swinging strikes. He then fell behind 2-0, but on a 2-1 pitch got a groundout. The third out was recorded on a flyout to Willy Garcia in right field. Just what Pimentel needed, a clean inning, but does pitching the eighth inning start to indicate that the Bucs may be losing interest in the out-of-options right hander?
The Phillies won the game 3-2 when Stetson Allie grounded out. But the Pirates sent Brad Lincoln out for “the bottom of the ninth” to face the Phillies anyway. Lincoln allowed a bomb to Dom Brown.
The 4-3-2 Pittsburgh Pirates will host the new look Boston Red Sox at McKechnie Field in a 1:05 PM EST start.