Morton shines as Pirates beat Reds 2-0
Charlie Morton pitched five shutout innings and the Pittsburgh Pirates moved into first place in the crowded NL Central with a 2-0 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Monday night.
Pittsburgh kicked off an important two-week stretch by shutting down the Reds after Morton (8-5) extricated himself from a bases-loaded jam in the first inning following a lengthy rain delay to win for the first time since June 15.
The right-hander gave up three hits, striking out three and walking two. Joel Hanrahan pitched the ninth for his 27th save as Pittsburgh surged a half-game ahead of Milwaukee in the Central.
Dontrelle Willis (0-1) pitched well in his second start since being called up from Triple-A Louisville. The former All-Star surrendered two runs in 4 2-3 innings, striking out five and walking just one.
Willis' only hiccup came in the fourth as the Pirates scratched across a pair of runs in what is becoming very Pirate-like fashion.
Chase d'Arnaud and Neil Walker led off the fourth with back-to-back singles. Andrew McCutchen brought d'Arnaud home on an RBI groundout and Walker soon followed on Matt Diaz's sacrifice fly.
That was more than enough for Morton and Pittsburgh's steady bullpen.
Morton has struggled over the last month, his early season success waning. He entered the game with a 6.82 ERA since June 1 but showed flashes of his April and May form on a muggy night at increasingly electric PNC Park.
A well-timed downpour and some spectacular defense may have helped.
The start of the game was delayed 55 minutes by rain, but the sky briefly cleared, giving Morton just enough time to get in trouble.
He hit Drew Stubbs to lead off the game and Zack Cozart followed with a sharp single to put runners on the corners. An intentional walk to Jay Bruce with two outs loaded the bases.
Morton jumped ahead of Miguel Cairo 1-2 when a massive thunderclap shook the stadium and umpire Tony Randazzo ordered the teams off the field.
When they returned, Morton escaped thanks to a brilliant play by shortstop d'Arnaud, who dived into the hole to field a grounder by Cairo then flipped the ball with his glove to Walker at second base to force out Bruce.
Tony Watson pitched 2 2-3 innings of relief while Daniel McCutchen got out of a two-on, two-out jam in the eighth before giving way to Hanrahan.
The All-Star reliever blew his first save of the season on Saturday but the Reds went down meekly in the ninth.
NOTES: Walker's single in the first inning extended his hitting streak to 12 games ... Cincinnati third baseman Scott Rolen was given the day off by manager Dusty Baker, who was concerned about Rolen's sore right shoulder, which has been operated on three times. Rolen is expected to return to the lineup on Tuesday. ... Pittsburgh could take shortstop Ronny Cedeno off the disabled list by Friday. Cedeno went on the seven-day DL on earlier this month with concussion-like symptoms. ... d'Arnaud left the game in the fifth with stiffness in his neck after sliding hard into third base.