Charlie Morton is coming back to the rotation.
The Pirates are ahead of schedule this year if you’re looking at past history as a benchmark for success and are poised to make yet another winning run into the all-star break.
The slow-starting Bucs are three wins ahead of where they were last year after 43 games played and are looking like they’re getting into their traditional mid-summer form. Last year, the Pirates went 15-14 in the month of May followed by a 17-10 June. So far this year, the Pirates are 9-12 in May with seven games remaining and three of the seven left come against a weak Marlins team with a banged up starting rotation and an executive serving as manager.
I like our chances.
As if it couldn’t get any worse for the Marlins, the Pirates get much needed rotation help today as Charlie Morton makes his first start of the year. Morton looked downright dominant in his last three rehab starts in AA/AAA, only yielding three runs in 20 1/3 innings while fanning 22 in the process.
Morton is a welcomed addition to a rotation that has leaned heavily on Jeff Locke and Vance Worley to start the year with mixed results and could prove to be a tremendous compliment to the sizzling trio of Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole, and A.J. Burnett. The aforementioned top three are credited with having 10+ strikeouts in three consecutive games, which was the first time that feat had been accomplished by Pirate starters since 1969.
Being that over the last two starts in AAA Morton has struck out 17 batters in only 13 innings, there is a legitimate chance to make it four starts in a row where a Pirate starter strikes out double digit batters.
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He couldn’t ask for a warmer reception as the fleeting Marlins come into PNC Park with an 18-27 record, good for last in the NL West. The Fins have recently won the last two games in a series against Baltimore to snap a season worst eight-game losing streak. During that miserable stretch they were held to three runs or less in six straight games.
In comparison, the Pirate bats as usual are heating up with the weather. The Bucs put up 21 runs in the last three games against the Mets and proceeded to power through the highly touted duo of Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard in the process. History has showed us over the last few seasons as the temperature rises in the Steel City so does the batting average. We should expect it at this point.
It won’t exactly be a walk in the park today, however, as the Pirates face yet another tough young arm as David Phelps toes the rubber for the Fish. Phelps enters the game having thrown five quality starts in his last six outings and if you take away a disaster relief appearance earlier in the season in which he gave up four earned runs in only a 1/3 of an inning pitched, he would be sporting a season ERA close to 2.50. That’s stellar to say the least.
If the Pirates can take two or three against the Marlins at home and then split the series with the Padres two a piece, we can finish the month 13-15 giving them an overall record of 25-25 going into a June month in which they perennially dominate.
The Bucs are starting to heat up as we all knew they would. Now the challenge will be to maintain the momentum and keep the consistency moving into the all-star break.
Look out NL Central. The Jolly Roger is right off the coast!