It seems all Charlie Morton needs to have a good start is a little bit of rain.
For the second time in three outings, Morton did not allow a run on a rainy night. The struggling San Francisco offense could only manage three hits in seven innings during the Pittsburgh Pirates‘ 2-0 victory over the Giants on Saturday night.
Morton (2-2) struck out six after the game’s start was delayed by 11 minutes, and he sat through a 13-minute delay in the sixth. During his only other victory July 3 in Florida, Morton made it through 84 minutes of delays for six innings of one-hit ball.
“He’s got great stuff. It’s unfortunate that he’s had rain delays … and hasn’t really gotten into a good routine,” Pirates manager John Russell said. “I thought the way he threw the ball the last few innings showed us what he can do.”
Acquired from the Atlanta Braves in the Nate McLouth trade last month, Morton only allowed one runner to advance past first base. He had pitched as many as seven innings only twice in 20 previous major league starts.
“I think it’s an issue of just getting consistent, getting settled in and believing in my stuff and just trying to keep it down in the zone,” Morton said. “Trust in the pitches I’m trying to throw, that’s what it comes down to.”
John Grabow pitched a perfect eighth and Matt Capps worked out of a two-on, none out jam in the ninth to earn his 20th save.
“(Morton) pitched great, kept us in the ballgame,” Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson said. “It was a good pitching performance by both (starting) pitchers. We need to obviously swing the bats better and score some more runs so our guys don’t have to throw shutouts.”
Morton had a shutout for Triple-A Gwinnett in the Braves‘ organization earlier this season and led the International League in wins at the time of his trade to the Pirates.
Saturday, he struck out at least one batter in five of his innings, but he also said he pitched to contact with his and let the Pirates‘ play some superior defense behind him.
Edgar Renteria had two hits for San Francisco, which did not have an extra-base hit and has scored only one run – an unearned one, at that – in 23 innings during the first two games of this series. The Pirates won Friday, 2-1 in 14 innings.
“It’s been a rough start here, but it’s two games. It is what it is,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “We’ll get in a rhythm.”
Andrew McCutchen had two hits and Ryan Doumit had an RBI and scored a run for Pittsburgh, which has won the first two games after the All-Star break after entering it having lost seven of eight.
Barry Zito (5-10) nearly matched Morton, allowing two runs on six hits without a walk. He struck out four in 6 1-3 innings.
Pittsburgh got the only run it would need in the first. McCutchen led off with a single to center, and after Freddy Sanchez grounded into a fielder’s choice and Garrett Jones doubled, Doumit hit a sacrifice fly to left.
The Giants – 13th in the league in runs – have only one extra-base hit in the series. Their run Friday was scored on an error and a wild pitch.
“You’re looking for quality at-bats, you need those throughout the lineup,” Bochy said. “And right now, we’re cold.”
Including Doumit’s sacrifice fly, Zito would retire 15 in a row into the sixth. The Pirates would not get to him again until the seventh, when singles by Doumit, Delwyn Young and Andy LaRoche made it 2-0.
“The first inning was tough, but after that I felt pretty good,” Zito said.
“We’re pitching well,” said Bochy. “You can say the same thing for the other club… But they’re getting enough runs to beat us.”
Grabow’s appearance was his record-setting 189th at PNC Park. … The fireworks night crowd of 37,023 was the third sellout of the season for the Pirates, who are 13-2 when playing in front of home crowds of at least 20,000. … Zito has lost all three of his starts against Pittsburgh.