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Morton roughed up in return vs. Crew

August 30, 2010

MILWAUKEE — Three months away didn’t change much for Charlie Morton.

Whatever the Pirates right-hander had going for him in 14 starts with Triple-A Indianapolis seemed to escape him on Sunday as the Pirates lost, 8-4, to the Brewers at Miller Park.

Morton (1-10) delivered one of his roughest performances of the season in the series finale, surrendering eight runs (seven earned) on nine hits, with one walk and two strikeouts over just 3 1/3 innings of work.

“[Morton] just didn’t execute quality pitches,” Pirates manager John Russell said. “I think he threw a few too many offspeed pitches and didn’t really get aggressive with his fastball. Just not enough quality pitches. When he throws that many offspeed pitches, then he loses the aggressiveness of really being able to pound the zone.”

After leading off the inning with a hit batter, Morton gave up a two-run homer to Ryan Braun in the fourth, which spelled the end of his outing.

Things didn’t go any smoother in the first three innings for Morton, either.

After retiring the first batter he faced, Morton allowed three singles and a walk in a four-batter span. Coupled with a throwing error charged to Morton himself, the Brewers put three runs on the board in the bottom of the first.

Following a four-batter second inning, the third inning featured four singles, a stolen base and a passed ball, all of which amounted to another three runs for the Brewers. All this came after a two-run homer in the first by Neil Walker, which gave Morton a lead to work with early on.

According to Morton, some early success by the Brewers when he threw his fastball led to him changing the way he approached hitters.

“Early on, they seemed to be on my four-seamer pretty good,” Morton said. “I was throwing my sinker, but I was falling behind in some counts. With my sinker, I was inducing less firm contact, but I got beat bad on a couple curveballs I left up in the zone.”

In two starts this season for Morton against the Brewers, the results have not been pretty. On April 20, he allowed six runs (five earned) on six hits and three walks in one inning of work, facing 12 batters and tossing 58 pitches before being removed in the second inning of the Pirates’ 8-1 loss.

For the season, Morton has given up 12 earned runs on 15 hits and four walks over 4 1/3 innings of work against the Brewers, good for an 0-2 record and a 24.94 ERA.

Overall this season, Morton drops to 1-10 with a 10.03 ERA, allowing 52 earned runs on 75 hits over 46 2/3 innings pitched. In 14 starts for Indianapolis between his late May demotion and Sunday’s loss, Morton was impressive, posting a 3.82 ERA as he allowed 34 earned runs on 83 hits over 80 innings of work. Morton also recorded 53 strikeouts against 30 walks.

While his manager said he would get another chance to start, Morton’s return did not exactly go as the 26-year-old right-hander would have liked.

“To come back and work at getting back, obviously the first start back you want to do better than I did today,” said Morton, who was coming off a six-inning outing for Indianapolis in which he allowed zero runs on four hits with four strikeouts.

Ryan Doumit added a solo homer in the fourth and Delwyn Young added another in the seventh, but that was all the offense the Pirates would muster for the game.

Brewers starter Dave Bush wasn’t sharp, but he tossed seven innings, giving up four runs (three earned) on seven hits, with two walks and four strikeouts. All the damage done by the Pirates against Bush came on Walker, Doumit and Young’s three home runs.

With the loss, the Pirates dropped their 13th consecutive road contest, which amounts to the club having been swept in each of its past four series on the road since taking two of three in Colorado on July 27-29.

It also marks the third time this season the Pirates have been swept by the Brewers, with the other two coming April 20-22 at PNC Park and July 9-11 at Miller Park. Since snapping a 22-game road losing streak to the Brewers on April 27, the Pirates have gone 4-9 against Milwaukee and 1-6 at Miller Park.

The consensus in the visitors’ clubhouse over the past three days has been that things never seem to come easy when the Pirates face the Brewers, regardless of the outcome.

“When I got here in ’06, I was told it had been the other way around, that we couldn’t really beat the Pirates at all,” Bush said. “I didn’t know any better, but I remember hearing guys talk about it. We won a few games that year, and guys seemed relieved by it, I guess.

“It’s turned around a little bit in the past few years. I know we had that really long winning streak against them broken up [22 consecutive home wins], and since then we’ve had some really good games. There have been some heated games, and some good games back and forth.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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