Charlie Morton had not won a start since June 27 and a road contest since June 5. Both of those changed as the Pittsburgh Pirates won 3-0 against the Cincinnati Reds.
The Pirates victory means that both teams split the four-game series.
Morton [7-4] set the side down in order on six pitches in the first inning and struck out the side in the second. He allowed two base runner, Ivan DeJesus Jr. in the third inning and Eugenio Suarez in the seventh inning to reach scoring position.
He allowed five hits and struck out seven batters in seven innings while recording nine ground ball outs. Morton threw 93 pitches and 63 of those were strikes.
With Keyvius Sampson [0-1] on the mound and making his first career start, the Pirates took advantage.
Sean Rodriguez registered the first hit of the game with a one-out double, his fifth of the season. Two batters later, Gregory Polanco doubled. Starling Marte then hit a 1-0 fastball for an RBI double. Rodriguez scored and Polanco slid in safely for the second run.
Leading off the fourth inning, Walker took a first-pitch fastball that went over the right field wall for a home run. The play was initially ruled a triple as Walker stopped at third, however crew chief Joe West called for a replay and changed the call.
Walker has homered seven times and has 14 RBI in his last 17 games at Great American Ball Park.
Tony Watson pitched the eighth inning and earned his major league-leading 25th hold of the season however it was not without any drama.
In Saturday night’s Pirates game Joe Blanton hit Marlon Byrd with a pitch. Byrd took exception and slowly walked to first base escorted by an umpire. Andrew McCutchen was hit by a pitch in the top of the eighth and momentarily went down in pain. Several Pirates went to the top step of the dugout however nothing at the time materialized.
With one out in the bottom of the inning, Watson hit Phillips with a pitch. Phillips took exception and the benches emptied. Byrd looked for Blanton to exchange words for last night’s incident.
The teams were attempted to be escorted back to the dugout by the umpires however words continued to be exchanged and the teams went back out onto the field.
Rodriguez got into a shouting match with the Reds and was ejected as were Joey Votto and Byrd.
The teams reset and Watson recorded the final two outs of the inning. He entered play with a 1.75 ERA in 24 appearances against National League Central opponents. The Pirates are now 23-1 in his past 24 appearances.
Mark Melancon pitched the ninth inning and after allowing a leadoff double to Jay Bruce got pinch-hitter Billy Hamilton to ground out. Melancon then went inside on an 0-1 pitch to Tucker Barnhart and the pitch hit him. He was immediately ejected by home plate umpire D.J. Reyburn.
Melancon pleaded his case and Francisco Cervelli quickly went over to the umpire to explain that there was no intent on the hit batter. Manager Clint Hurdle went out for an explanation and West said that they had no choice but to eject Melancon because warnings were issued. Hurdle was also ejected during this sequence.
Joakim Soria recorded the final two outs earning his first save as a Pirate and 24th overall on the season.
Morton now has a 4-0 record in his last six starts at Great American Ball Park.
The Pirates will face the Chicago Cubs in a three-game series which starts Monday. Francisco Liriano [7-6 2.92 ERA] will face Jon Lester [6-8 3.26 ERA]. Liriano is 4-2 with a 2.56 ERA in 10 career starts against the Cubs. The Pirates are 4-6 against the Cubs this season. This game will be televised nationally by ESPN and locally by Root Sports.
Photo courtesy: Andy Lyons/Getty Images