Morton paces Pirates past Nationals 4-3
PITTSBURGH (AP) The bagel next to Charlie Morton's record is gone. All it took was a little tinkering with the Pittsburgh Pirates lineup, a familiar face at the back of the bullpen and a right-fielder who is quickly achieving cult status.
Morton wove in and out of trouble for nearly six innings and Pittsburgh's bullpen made it hold up - barely - in a 4-3 win over the Washington Nationals on Friday night.
The right-hander (1-6) had gone 15 starts without a `W' next to his name despite a stretch of solid if not always spectacular outings. It's a drought he insists he didn't pay attention to, though he was hardly complaining after emerging victorious for the first time in nearly nine months.
Pressed on what was different, Morton just shrugged his shoulders.
''I won. I got a win,'' he said. ''I don't think I really pitched great. I think I pitched pretty well limiting the guys that got on from scoring.''
Morton allowed one run in 5 2-3 innings, walking four and striking out four. Jason Grilli pick up his fifth save in his return from the disabled list thanks in part to a leaping grab at the wall in right field by Josh Harrison, who snagged Ian Desmond's fly ball to end the game.
''I had it the whole time,'' Harrison said with a laugh.
Pedro Alvarez hit his ninth home run of the season for Pittsburgh after being dropped from fourth to sixth in the lineup. Ike Davis, who replaced Alvarez as the cleanup hitter, went 2 for 4 with two runs scored.
''Ike's hit fourth before, he's had a very solid month from the start to this time, it might open some things up for Pedro,'' Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. ''It looks good. Tonight it was nice to get that lineup out on the field.''
The Pirates have won three straight and four out of five as they try to climb out of a massive early season hole. Grilli wasn't supposed to be part of the plan on Friday coming off a strained left oblique. He was pressed into action in his usual spot with Mark Melancon - who has filled in capably - unavailable after a heavy workload earlier in the week.
''I just tried to stick to my strengths,'' said Grilli, who worked around a leadoff walk. ''But yeah this feels good. The adrenaline was definitely there.''
Jordan Zimmerman (3-2) labored through six innings to lose for the first time in over a month. Denard Span had two of Washington's eight hits. The Nationals left 11 runners on base while losing their third straight.
Washington - minus hobbled stars Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper among others - threw out a lineup that included four players hitting .192 or worse. Creating chances wasn't a problem. Taking advantage of them was another matter entirely. The Nationals stranded at least one runner in every inning and went 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position.
''We had opportunities,'' Washington manager Matt Williams said. ''We had the right matchups, right against left, left against right and they just scored one more run than we did.''
The Pirates weren't quite as busy on the basepaths but managed to be a little more efficient getting runners home after Hurdle switched up the batting order hoping to get a little more production out of the meat of the lineup. The move paid immediate dividends.
Hurdle moved Davis - hitting .328 this month - from fifth to fourth and dropped Alvarez to sixth after a prolonged slump.
Davis singled leading off the second and fourth and came home both times, scoring on a fielder's choice by Starling Marte in the second and trotting home after Alvarez sent a Zimmerman fastball into the bushes in center field for his first homer since May 5 to make it 4-0.
The Nationals crept back in it slowly and appeared poised to tie it when Desmond sent an 0-2 pitch from Grilli toward the 21-foot Clemente Wall in right. Instead Harrison raised the ball in triumph.
NOTES: The victory was Hurdle's 800th as a major league manager. He is the sixth active manager to reach 800 victories. ... Nationals 1B Adam LaRoche went 1 for 3 with a walk in a rehab start for Double-A Altoona on Friday night, clearing the way for him to return from a strained right quadriceps on Sunday. ... The series continues on Saturday when former No. 1 overall picks Stephen Strasburg and Gerrit Cole meet for the first time. Strasburg, the top pick in the 2009 amateur draft is 3-3 with a 3.38 ERA this season. Cole, the top pick in the 2011 draft, is 4-3 with a 3.84 ERA.