Pirates show discipline, resilience in win

Morton gives up five; Bucs manage go-ahead run on Martin's sac fly

Pirates show discipline, resilience in win

CHICAGO -- Adding his bit to rampant Wrigley Field nostalgia, Clint Hurdle was reminiscing Tuesday afternoon about his first game here as a player, in 1982, soon after he'd been traded by the Royals to the Reds.

"A freezing cold day, with only a few hundred people in the stands," the Pirates manager laughed about that April 27 afternoon, when 3,743 fans were in the seats.

There were a few thousand more people, but not many more degrees at Wrigley Field on Tuesday night -- 48, to be exact -- when Coldplay was at the top of everyone's playlist. A crowd of 26,177 saw the Bucs tenaciously outlast the Cubs, 7-6.

And there was quite a bit of "Magic" to the eighth-inning rally the Pirates used to snap a 6-6 tie: It began with Starling Marte drawing his second walk of the game, something he had not done since Aug. 8. Righty Pedro Strop also walked Andrew McCutchen before being replaced by lefty James Russell -- who walked Pedro Alvarez to load the bases for Russell Martin's go-ahead sacrifice fly.

Marte and Alvarez walk in the same inning? The winning run on a sacrifice fly -- something the Pirates could not produce in a 36-game stretch at one point last season?

"It's just the discipline," Martin said. "We get a little over-aggressive and swing at the pitcher's pitch, so I think this is us growing up as a team, with everybody trusting each other. If we're going to be disciplined like that throughout the year, we're going to be a tough team to play, man."

"It's a mentality -- something that was talked about showing up a little bit right now," Hurdle said, with obvious satisfaction. "That's something we didn't see a lot last year, but if the offense can improve just a little bit, it's gonna make us a whole lot better in the long run."

Added a proud batting coach, Jeff Branson, who saw payoff for months of preaching:

"They see how the work they put in can help the team do exactly what we did tonight -- we were able to manufacture a run. We can't rely on the pitching staff every night."

Definitely not this night, when laws of averages caught up with a pair of Buccos pitchers.

"The Hardest Part" for the Pirates was watching Charlie Morton humbled by a stunning development. The tough sinkerballer had gone 93 innings without allowing a home run to a right-handed batter, until Starlin Castro hit two of them in a four-inning span.

"That can't happen. I'll learn from it," Morton said flatly. "I threw a four-seamer trying to go down and away, and the ball got in and he got under it. Then, a curve ... just terrible. Two terrible pitches."

Castro's first crank, a three-run shot in the third, tied the score at 4. His second, in the sixth, only dented the Bucs' lead, shrinking it to 6-5.

So the Cubs relied on old reliable, drawing even in the seventh when Anthony Rizzo's single scored Emilio Bonifacio, who had led off with his third hit of the game -- and 14th in four games against the Bucs -- against Tony Watson. Bonifacio moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and stole third before scoring the first run off Watson since Aug. 3.

"It was a fistfight off the mound for us most of the night," Hurdle said. "But we finished strong out of the bullpen; that was really good to see."

The end-game tandem of Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli then took care of matters before there was any more "Trouble."

Morton began to give up the early 4-0 lead on a second-inning RBI single by Bonifacio -- of course.

Castro's first drive, hammered into the left-field corner, was a tipoff that Morton simply did not have it Tuesday. The last time a righty had homered off Morton was on July 22, 15 starts earlier.

But it all ended in "Paradise," because the Bucs kept responding every time the Cubs made a move on them.

"They just kept playing," Hurdle said. "It's not about what's not going right, but about what you've got to do next."

With their early lead gone, the Bucs reloaded in the fourth. Marte walked with two away, stole second and scored on McCutchen's single. In the fifth, Martin doubled before Travis Ishikawa's triple made it 6-4.

Through the season's first week, the Pirates had not been a quick-strike club. In fact, they scored a total of three runs in the first three innings of six games. That changed, with four runs in the first inning alone off Chicago starter Edwin Jackson.

Marte led off with a double, which was only appropriate. Every Pittsburgh game has begun with a hit, although this was the Pirates' first chance to do the honors on the road. Plus, Marte in Wrigley Field is like a guy in Las Vegas holding 11 at the blackjack table -- he always hits. He is 15-for-36 in the course of a nine-game hit streak here.

After Marte moved to third on a pop fly and McCutchen walked, Alvarez doubled to drive both home. Martin was hit by a pitch, then Neil Walker's RBI single and Ishikawa's sacrifice fly doubled the lead to 4-0.

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. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.