Pirates shut out White Sox for 6th straight win
PITTSBURGH -- Charlie Morton added seven more zeros on Tuesday night to an amazing run by Pittsburgh starters, helping the Pirates win their sixth straight in a 3-0 victory over the White Sox at PNC Park.
Five of those six have been via shutout, matching a stretch accomplished only four previous times in Major League history, by the 1995 Orioles, 1986 Astros, 1974 Orioles and 1903 Pirates.
Chicago lefty Jose Quintana went six innings in a solid effort to keep pace with Morton, but was undone by an RBI single by Andrew McCutchen and solo homers by Sean Rodriguez and Francisco Cervelli -- the Pirates catcher who has been behind the plate for 51 consecutive scoreless innings.
In winning his sixth straight start, including his last of the 2014 season, Morton allowed four hits and a walk with three strikeouts, and lowered his ERA to 1.62 to join Gerrit Cole (1.71) and A.J. Burnett (1.89) as Buccos starters sporting sub-2.00 ERAs.
Pittsburgh's rotation has given up a total of five earned runs in its last 65 1/3 innings, across nine games, for an aggregate ERA of 0.69.
"Guess what I was doing in Florida is paying off," said Morton, whose first start was delayed until May 25 as he tuned up his body off September labral repair surgery on his right hip. "I had to work on my mechanics, get back to being right. Failure during Spring Training forced me to change some things."
White Sox manager Robin Ventura said Pittsburgh's pitchers have been tough the past couple of games, but the onus falls on his offense to get the bats going. Chicago was shut out in both games in Pittsburgh, and managed 10 runs in the previous three-game series against Tampa Bay.
"We have to be able to swing the bats better," Ventura said. "You tip your hats somewhat, but some of it is a funk we are in. We have to be able to find a way out of it. We have to score some runs to be able to win games. You throw up a couple of donuts in two games here, you are not going to win."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Morton takes the mound: At about 6:40 p.m. ET, Morton walked out to the left-center field bullpen to warm up, and that's about all it took. What else can be said about any member of a rotation that has neither bent nor broken for a week and a half? More >
First-inning flop: Entering Tuesday's game, the White Sox managed one total run in the first innings of their last seven games. Tuesday was a continuation of that trend, but Chicago had a chance to get ahead early. After Adam Eaton singled and then stole second base, he almost reached third on a dribbling grounder hit by Alexei Ramirez in front of Cervelli. However, Cervelli threw out Eaton at third -- not taking the easy out at first -- and preventing the White Sox from having a one-out situation with a man on third. More >
Return of the long ball: After having hit only two home runs while relying on timely hitting in their previous eight games, the Bucs went deep twice within three innings to grow their lead. Rodriguez connected for his third with one out in the fourth, and Cervelli led off the sixth with his second.
"He's doing just a fantastic job behind the plate, and offensively he has found some rhythm," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said about Cervelli, who continues to lead all big league catchers with his .324 batting average.
"No one is gonna get cut if they don't throw a shutout." -- Hurdle, on his pitching staff
"The homer, it was on a 2-0 count. I tried to keep the ball down, but when they swing, that can happen." -- Quintana, on the solo home run by Cervelli
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
As did the Pirates, the Cardinals won on Tuesday. The top two National League Central contenders have had the same outcome -- win or lose -- on days they have both played every single day since June 1, keeping St. Louis six games ahead of Pittsburgh.
White Sox: Southpaw John Danks (3-6, 5.29 ERA) will hit the hill for Chicago as the White Sox head back to the Windy City for two games against the Pirates, starting at 7:10 p.m. CT/8:10 p.m. ET on Wednesday at U.S. Cellular Field. Danks has had an up-and-down go of it recently with a shutout on May 31, but nine combined earned runs surrendered in his two starts since.
Pirates: With the scene of this Interleague series switching to Chicago, lefty Jeff Locke takes the mound for the Bucs. Locke is coming off six shutout innings against the Phillies, and will be trying to put together back-to-back quality starts for the first time since his first two outings of the season.
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