Pittsburgh Pirates hammered in 14-2 loss to Houston Astros


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Charlie Morton roughed up in Sunday’s loss

It was a forgettable afternoon of Grapefruit League action for the Pittsburgh Pirates Sunday. Charlie Morton and Charlie Leesman combined to allow 12 earned runs in five innings of work, the team’s offense struck out 10 and left 10 on base in a dismal showing as the Houston Astros steamrolled the club by a 14-2 final.

Already trailing 5-0 heading to the bottom of the fifth, the Astros’ offense really got rolling – tallying eight runs in the frame via three run-scoring singles and a pair of RBI doubles – one of which was of the bases-clearing variety that extended the lead to 11-1. Houston added two more runs in the inning, taking the advantage to a staggering 13-1.

Pittsburgh shortstop Jordy Mercer made up for his error in the bottom of the fifth in the next inning, hitting a solo home run against right-hander Dan Straily – cutting the lead to 13-2. However, that would be the only other run apart from a Pedro Alvarez RBI groundout in the fourth and the Bucs quietly fell in the late innings.

Morton lasted just 4 1/3 innings on Sunday, allowing seven earned on nine hits – two of which left the yard. Chris Carter took the Pirates’ projected number three starter deep for his second blast of the spring in the third and Colby Rasmus followed in the fourth with a shot of his own, putting the finishing touches on a rough start for the right-hander.

Opposite Morton was Roberto Hernandez, who turned in a solid start for the Astros, tossing four innings of one-run ball, scattering three hits and striking out a pair. Straily and James Hoyt followed the veteran, combining to toss five innings of one-run ball – pushing Houston over .500 on the spring.

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The Pirates’ bats managed just six hits – and only Jaff Decker, who is batting .296 in Grapefruit League play this year – managed more than one base hit. Meanwhile, Houston pounded out 17 hits – and was aided by a pair of Pittsburgh errors, as well.

What Stood Out:

Morton failed to locate pitches well from start-to-finish on Sunday afternoon – and the Houston Astros capitalized. For the Pirates to be successful this season, the right-hander will have to be on-key; even though he struggled on Sunday, there’s no reason to think that he’ll pitch like that consistently.

In his two previous appearances this spring, he combined for five innings of one-run ball – a far cry from what we saw against Houston on Sunday. One bad outing doesn’t mean he’s not going to be solid this season, but it’s worth keeping an eye on in his next outing.

What’s Next:

The Pirates (9-8) will head to Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte to take on the Tampa Bay Rays (9-8) on Monday afternoon. First pitch is slated for 1:05 p.m. ET.

A.J. Burnett (0-1, 4.50 ERA) is slated to start for Pittsburgh. He will be opposed by former Chicago Cubs’ top prospect Chris Archer (1-2, 2.89 ERA).

Next: Charlie Morton hit hard on Sunday v. Houston