Morton humbled in brief outing vs. Nationals

Morton humbled in brief outing vs. Nationals

WASHINGTON -- Charlie Morton has been around long enough to know baseball is not only certain to humble you, but occasionally it will humiliate you. He also knows that in this game, history often has no relevance to the present.

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So Morton had no choice but to discuss the personal pratfall that set up Sunday's 9-2 loss to the Nationals with almost a bemused grin.

"The good pitches I made, they hit 'em. The bad pitches I made, they hit 'em. That's embarrassing," Morton said after allowing nine runs on eight hits without making it out of the first inning.

In two-thirds of an inning, Morton thus gave up more runs than in 138 of his 139 career starts (he did allow 10 runs in one-plus inning to the Cubs on Aug. 14, 2009), and more than the eight total runs (six earned) in his prior 33 1/3 innings of the season.

He also took the punch from the law of averages for the whole staff, which had allowed a total of seven runs during the eight-game winning streak the Pirates had brought into Nationals Park.

"We had a tough series," said manager Clint Hurdle, not going for a world-class understatement after the Bucs had been outscored 19-3 in a sweep that included a no-hitter, just highlighting the fact his team was firing on all cylinders coming in. "You toss it.

"You kick it to the curb," added Hurdle, specifically of Morton's misadventure. "You play 162, you go through a lot of emotions and you have to make sure to deal with the facts. And the facts are … he missed spots, the inning quickly went sideways, and it happens."

"No … it's not easy [to get over]," Morton said. "But you've got to shake it off, learn from it and get ready for the next one. My stuff was fine … most of those pitches were in the bottom half of the strike zone. The ones to Ian Desmond [single] and to Gio Gonzalez [opposite-field double to turn the lineup over] were the highest.

"It's hard, because nothing I was doing was working."

This is what "nothing working" looks like: Bryce Harper and Yunel Escobar hit home runs (for five of the runs) in one inning off a guy who in 2011 allowed six homers in 171 2/3 innings.

"You're looking for something that'll work -- weak contact on the ground or a swing and miss -- and not getting any of that," Morton said. "None of it was working so, really, it becomes the kind of thing where you got to keep going till they take you out."

When that happened, amazingly but imperceptibly under the circumstances, the Bucs' mojo actually did a one-eighty. Vance Worley, Antonio Bastardo and Arquimedes Caminero blanked the Nationals on four hits across the final 7 1/3 innings, leaving a better taste in the Bucs' mouths.

"We got out of this as cleanly as you could have hoped for after that first inning," Hurdle said. "Now we get to go home [for 16 of their next 19 games] and unpack our bags. We always look forward to playing in front of our fans."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer and on his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.