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By Chad Carlson
Photo Credit: AP
After a pathetically horrid home stand, the Pittsburgh Pirates were back in action tonight against the Cincinnati Reds for the first of a four-game set at Great American Ballpark.  Charlie Morton took to the hill for the Buccos, while Bronson Arroyo made the start for the Reds, who came into the series sporting an 8-4 record.
In an effort to ignite the offense, manager Clint Hurdle changed up the lineup slightly this evening.  Andrew McCutchen moved up to the leadoff spot, Jose Tabata moved to the second, Lyle Overbay to the third, and Neil Walker into the cleanup position.  With the exception of Tabata, the Pirates don’t have a regular starter with a batting average over .300. 
The Pirates jumped out to the early lead in the second inning on Garrett Jones’ solo homerun to deep right, giving the Buccos a 1-0 advantage.
The Buccos went back to work on Arroyo in the third inning as well.  Overbay singled to start, and advanced to third base on Pedro Alvarez’s double.  After Jones was intentionally walked, Chris Snyder singled to left, scoring Overbay and giving the Pirates a 2-0 lead.
Pittsburgh’s onslaught continued the very next inning against Arroyo.  With two outs in the fourth inning, Tabata doubled for his second hit of the night, and scored when Overbay singled him home.  The very next batter, Walked hammered a two-run homerun to deep right, and the Buccos had a commanding 5-0 advantage.
Arroyo lasted only four innings, giving up five runs on nine hits, inflating his ERA to 4.24.  Matt Maloney relieved him in the fifth, and pitched four shutout innings for the Reds, keeping the game somewhat close.
The Pirates added another run in the ninth, as Snyder singled off Logan Ondrusek for his third hit of the game, scoring Walker from third.
For the Pirates, Charlie Morton pitched a gem of a game.  His Spring Training success certainly appears to be carrying over to regular season action.  Chuck threw a complete game, only giving up one run (coming off a ninth inning homerun by Jay Bruce) on five hits and issuing two walks, lowering his already-stingy ERA to 1.64.
This was a huge game for the Pirates.  After a terrible home stand, there was the fear that the club would fall into a long losing skid that has become characteristic of Pirates’ seasons in the past.   Charlie Morton pitched an incredible game, shutting down a potentially hazardous Reds’ lineup.  We’ve been hearing for a number of years about how great Morton’s stuff is, but the results just weren’t there.  Well so far in 2011, the results are here…and they’re impressive.
From an offensive standpoint, there was definitely improvement tonight.  While they didn’t exactly light up the scoreboard, the Pirates got contributions from just about everyone in the lineup.  Tabata led the way with four hits, raising his average to .354, while Garrett Jones had a pair of hits, including the homerun in the second inning.  Overbay also had two knocks, while Walker had the big two-run blast in the fourth inning, effectively breaking the game open.  That was more than enough for Morton.
The Pirates will look to build on tonight’s game as they take on the Reds tomorrow afternoon for the second game of the series.  The Buccos will send James McDonald to the mound to face Cincinnati’s Edinson Volquez.
Record Vs. Reds: 1-0
Record Vs. N.L. Central: 5-4
Record On The Road: 5-2
Overall Record: 6-7
And…
As Always…
Let’s Go Bucs!