Marlins-Pirates Preview

The Pittsburgh Pirates have the best ERA in baseball despite
Charlie Morton having a couple of rough outings recently.

He’ll look to get back on track in a rematch with Miami Marlins
starter Tom Koehler on Wednesday night as host Pittsburgh seeks an
eighth victory in 10 games.

NL Central-leading Pittsburgh (68-44) has a major league-best
3.07 ERA and is in position to lead the majors in that category for
the first time since 1984. Its starters have posted a baseball-best
3.20 mark despite Morton (3-3, 4.07 ERA) going 2-2 with a 4.99 ERA
over his last five outings.

The right-hander allowed five runs and a season-worst 10 hits in
six innings of a 13-0 loss to St. Louis on Thursday.

“He’s working to improve the consistency and the tempo and the
timing of his delivery,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “It got a
little whacked (Thursday) in the stretch, so there’s room for
improvement.”

Morton also didn’t have his best stuff July 27 when he faced the
Marlins, giving up four runs and nine hits in five innings, but he
picked up a 7-4 victory. He’s 3-3 with a 5.11 ERA in seven career
starts versus Miami, which again counters with Koehler.

Koehler (3-6, 4.34) gave up five runs and nine hits in five
innings against Morton and suffered the loss. He bounced back,
though, and scattered five hits in six innings of a 3-0 win over
the New York Mets on Thursday.

”The key is really not to think about it too much,” Koehler
said. “You put up zeros against anybody who’s pitching, your team
tends to be in pretty good shape.”

The right-hander is 3-1 with a 3.18 ERA in his last six starts
and will face a Pirates team coming off a dramatic victory after
Josh Harrison’s pinch-hit homer in the bottom of the ninth secured
a 4-3 win in Tuesday’s series opener.

”Those are little things that happen that make you go `Yeah,
something’s going on,”’ Hurdle said of Harrison’s homer and
ensuing pie-to-the-face stunt from his teammates. ”There’s no
doubt the more feel good you get, the more you feel good.”

Neil Walker went 3 for 4, and Andrew McCutchen had a two-run
double as part of his fourth straight two-hit game. McCutchen is
hitting .435 in his last seven versus the Marlins.

Miami (43-68) has dropped three straight after blowing a
three-run lead Tuesday. Donovan Solano went 3 for 5, and Logan
Morrison, who is 9 for 17 over his last four, had an RBI
single.

”We couldn’t get that hit to give us a little breathing room,”
manager Mike Redmond said. “I get so tired of talking about the
same old stuff. We’ve played that game right there I don’t know how
many times this season. We’ve been on the winning end of some but
we’ve been on the losing end of many of them.”

The Marlins – last in the majors in runs scored – have scored
three runs or fewer in six of their last seven games, but the
starting rotation has a 1.90 ERA in that stretch. The bullpen,
though, has allowed four runs and nine hits in six innings over
their three-game losing streak.

Pittsburgh has won four straight at home over Miami.