By Adam Berry and John McGonigal
MLB.com |@adamdberry |
PITTSBURGH -- Backed by a pair of home runs, right-hander Charlie Morton made an encouraging return to the rotation as the Pirates beat the Marlins, 4-2, on Monday night at PNC Park.
Morton began the season on the disabled list after working his way back from September hip surgery, but he looked like the same "Ground Chuck" who pitched to a 3.52 ERA for the Pirates in 2013-14. The 31-year-old right-hander induced 16 groundouts, holding the Marlins to two runs on eight hits over seven innings in his 2015 debut.
"I think I threw the ball well," said Morton, who allowed a Giancarlo Stanton RBI single in the first and a Stanton homer in the third, but nothing after that. "I think my sinker was working pretty well. Kept it down a little bit and got a lot of ground balls."
Morton led the Pirates to their fourth straight win, getting them back to the .500 mark at 22-22.
"We're playing the kind of baseball we're capable of," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We have to play hungry."
Miami right-hander David Phelps, meanwhile, saw two pitches spoil an otherwise solid outing. Pittsburgh catcher Francisco Cervelli sent a three-run homer into the right-field bleachers in the second inning, and first baseman Pedro Alvarez ripped a line-drive solo shot to left-center field in the sixth.
Phelps exited after six innings, having allowed four runs, eight hits and two walks while striking out four.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED That's Amore: Cervelli has been hot at the plate lately, carrying a .304 average into Monday's game, but that contact hadn't translated into much power. That changed in the second inning, when Cervelli lofted a homer to right. It was the first home run by a Pirates catcher this season, and the first off Phelps since Aug. 3.
"He hammered that ball," Hurdle said. "He's been in a good place at the plate, seeing pitches."
Lumber and Leather: In the bottom of the second inning, Stanton made a leaping grab at the Clemente Wall, and he crushed a solo home run over the same stopgap a frame later.
Ground Chuck: Morton gave up a leadoff single to catcher J.T. Realmuto in the seventh, then did what he does best: induce ground balls. Morton recorded three straight groundouts after Realmuto's single, stranding the runner and ending his season debut on a positive -- and fitting -- note.
Supporting Phelps: Pitching in front of a large contingent of family, Phelps allowed his first two homers of the year, but had a solid outing otherwise. He didn't receive the necessary run support however, suffering his first road loss of the season.
"This isn't the '13 team. This isn't the '14 team. This is the '15 team, that to me hadn't established any identity through the first 40 games. ... I like the way this team has responded. I like this team a lot. I like their makeup. I like their guts. But we've got to play better baseball." -- Hurdle
"It's nice to see the love my family and my wife's family pours out over us. It's my son's first ballgame. It's exciting to get out there and have some fun and let them see what I enjoy to do and why I love this game." -- Phelps
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Pirates improved to 28-16 all-time against the Marlins at PNC Park. They've been almost unbeatable against the Marlins on the North Shore as of late, winning nine of the clubs' last 10 matchups. With one more win this week, Pittsburgh will have won four straight home series against Miami.
Crew chief Joe West initiated a review in the sixth inning to determine whether fan interference led to Alvarez's line-drive, opposite-field homer. After a one-minute, 29-second review, the home run call was confirmed. The blast, Alvarez's ninth of the season, came off his bat at 112 mph, as tracked by Statcast™.
WHAT'S NEXT Marlins: Miami will return to PNC Park to face Pittsburgh on Tuesday night at 7:05 p.m. ET. Jose Urena will make his MLB starting debut. Urena, the Marlins' No. 2 prospect according to MLB.com, is 4-0 with a 1.21 ERA for the Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs.
Pirates: Left-hander Jeff Locke will face the Marlins on Tuesday, looking to continue a strong stretch for the Pirates' rotation. Locke allowed three runs in the first inning Wednesday against the Twins, but he recovered well enough to post five scoreless innings after that. Locke went 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in two starts against Miami last year.
Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. John McGonigal is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.