Morton Holds Cardinals In Check, Pirates Win Again

By Zane Heiple

Photo Credit:  Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Pirates left Chicago and headed down Interstate-55 to begin a three-game set with their division rival, the St. Louis Cardinals.  After a great spring, Charlie Morton was given the task of shutting down the Cardinals, while the Bucco bats would be tested by Kyle Lohse.
St. Louis scored first in the second inning.  After Lance Berkman reached first on a walk, he advanced to third on a well-planned hit and run.  Berkman then scored when David Freese hit into a 5-4-3 double play.
In the fourth inning, Pirates’ second baseman Neil Walker made a beautiful sliding backhanded stab at a ball hit up the middle to prevent the Cards from increasing their lead.
The Pittsburgh Kid Walker gave the Pirates a 2-1 lead in the top of the sixth inning when he hit an opposite-field double.  The very next batter, Andrew McCutchen gave the Buccos a 4-1 advantage on a homerun to left field.
Morton finished his day after the sixth inning.  While his command wasn’t great (with five walks issued), he only allowed one run on three hits while striking out two batters.  This marked the fourth game in a row that the Pirates have had a starter go at least six innings.  This is why the Buccos have been in all four of their games this season.
Jose Veras pitched the seventh inning for Pittsburgh.  After giving up a single to the first batter, he struck out Jon Jay, and then followed that up by inducing an inning-ending double play.
Evan Meek took to the hill in the eighth inning and had another dismal performance, giving up two runs on two hits and one walk.  With no outs in the inning, manager Clint Hurdle brought in Mike Crotta to try to stop the late-game bleeding.  Ronny Cedeno once again bobbled a routine grounder to prevent a double play from being turned and only getting one out with the Buccos up 4-3. 
After Crotta notched two outs, Joel Hanrahan came in and struck out Yadier Molina for the final out of the eighth.  Hanrahan stayed in the game for the ninth inning and earned his third save of the year by setting the Cardinals down in order and allowing Pittsburgh to escape with a 4-3 victory.
As we all know when watching the Pirates, a game isn’t over until they get out number 27.  As tough as it was to watch Meek struggle for the second time this season, it was great to see Hanrahan come in and shut St. Louis down.  This just shows that Hurdle know what he was doing when he named Joel the closer so early in Spring Training.
The Pirates battle the Cardinals again tomorrow night at 8:15 in game two of this three-game series.  James McDonald will make his 2011 debut for the Buccos.

Record Vs. Cardinals:  1-0
Record Vs. N.L. Central:  3-1
Record On The Road:  3-1
Overall Record:  3-1

As Always…
Let’s Go Bucs!

Zane Heiple

Zane is Co-Editor of Fans From The Stands and a weekly contributor for Armchair Report on NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, and NCAA related topics. He's also the smartest man in the world. Just ask him.

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