Pittsburgh Pirates shut out Giants 4-0 in series opener
The Pittsburgh Pirates blanked the San Francisco Giants 4-0 on Thursday night on the back of a fantastic start by Charlie Morton. The Pirates were able to get to Jake Peavy early and give Morton the lead as he cruised to his ninth win of the season. After he exited the reinforcements from the bullpen did not let up and the Pirates took the first game of the four-game series. They enter play on Friday at 72-47, now just 4.5 games back of the St. Louis Cardinals, who were idle on Thursday.
The Pirates got one run off of Peavy in the first inning when Aramis Ramirez blasted a ground rule double to score Starling Marte, who was hit by a pitch for the 14th time this season. Peavy was tagged for a second run in the third inning off of a double by Jung Ho Kang that brought in Marte and moved Ramirez to third. During Ramirez’s at-bat, Marte stole his first of two bases on the evening, giving him 24 in total on the season.
Pittsburgh padded its lead in the sixth inning when Neil Walker connected for his 13th home run of the season, a two-run blast that gave the Pirates a 4-0 lead. This would prove to be all the Pirates would need as the Giants were not able to get anything going against Morton.
Morton limited the Giants to just four hits over 6.2 innings of work, issuing no walks and striking out eight. Jared Hughes finished a bases loaded jam in the seventh inning and worked a clean eighth to keep the Giants off the board. With a non-save situation entering the ninth inning, Clint Hurdle elected to go with Tony Watson to end the game. Watson did issue a walk and allow a hit, but he struck out one and preserved the shut out of the defending World Champions.
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What Stood Out
Morton was the star of the night, giving the Pirates a quality start by striking out eight and inducing ground balls for many of the other outs while he was on the mound. Once (or rather if) A.J. Burnett returns from his injury and can pitch like he did before the All-Star break, there will only be two spots left in the rotation. With Morton competing with Jeff Locke and J.A. Happ for these remaining spots, starts like the one on Thursday can go a long way in solidifying his place in the rotation.
Offensively, Marte helped keep the Giants off guard with his two stolen bases. His prowess on the base paths led to a few of the runs and will no doubt be something that the Giants will have to think about for the rest of the series. Ramirez, Kang, and Walker knocked in all of the runs last night, showing what a force the middle of the lineup can be, even against a team that won the World Series just 10 months ago.
The four-game series continues on Friday when lefties Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Locke take the mound for their respective clubs at 7:05 PM. Bumgarner has been lights out in his last three starts, giving up just two earned runs in 25.1 innings. He also has an unbelievable 35/1 K/BB ratio in those games, showing that he is still very much the same pitcher he was during the 2014 NL Wild Card game. Locke on the other hand has not completed six innings of work since he took a loss in Milwaukee back on July 19th.
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