Two jacks not enough to top Yankees in Game 1
Walker and T. Sanchez go deep, but early deficit too much for Bucs
NEW YORK -- The Pirates are still looking for their first win in Yankee Stadium, no matter if it is the old ballpark or new one. Before Sunday, Pittsburgh had lost each of its seven games played in the Bronx.
The losing streak to the Yankees was extended with a 4-3 loss in the first game of a doubleheader. The Buccos have also dropped five of their last six games.
The theme of Pittsburgh's offensive struggles with runners in scoring position during this six-game road trip continued. The Pirates have lost each game on the road stretch when they have scored three runs or fewer.
"We have not fared near what we want to or need to," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We've got to find the plate more often. That's been the biggest challenge with us not cashing in our opportunities."
The Pirates had a chance to tie the game in the eighth inning. Andrew McCutchen was on second base when Starling Marte came to the plate with two outs, but Marte never made contact on any of the three pitches thrown by Yankees closer David Robertson. Marte finished the game with four strikeouts, three of which came against starter Hiroki Kuroda.
"He looked a little bit displaced off of Kuroda," Hurdle said. "Unfortunately in Starling's case, he thought he saw it good and by time he got his swing off, it was underneath the barrel."
The Pirates' second-best opportunity to score multiple runs came in the fourth inning, when they loaded the bases for Gaby Sanchez with two outs. But Sanchez ended the inning on a soft groundout to short.
Starter Charlie Morton did his best to keep the Bucs in the game despite recording his sixth loss. Morton was given a quick 1-0 lead in the first inning when Neil Walker homered to right. However, the Yankees scored three runs before Morton recorded his first out.
"Initially, I don't think he felt confidence in the sinker to both right- and left-handed hitters," Hurdle said of Morton. "It came around close to the third inning."
Morton began his outing by walking Brett Gardner, allowing a bunt single to Derek Jeter and then hitting Jacoby Ellsbury to load the bases. Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann each hit singles to drive in three runs.
"I backed myself into a corner and they took advantage of it," Morton said. "Right now, it's just execution. Teams are taking advantage of the situation in the first inning."
Morton had a similar performance in his last start against the Cardinals. He pitched six innings and allowed four runs, three of which were unearned.
On Sunday, Morton settled in after the first inning and appeared to get stronger with each inning.
The Yankees scored their fourth run on a one-out double from Gardner that drove in Kelly Johnson. From there, Morton mixed his pitches effectively to get ground-ball outs. The starter retired 16 of the last 17 Yankees he faced.
"I think I was working a little bit in off the plate better," Morton said. "My misses weren't bad misses and they capitalized early. I pitched well after that, but the damage was done."
The one hit Morton gave up was a single to Zoilo Almonte in the fourth inning, but he ended the inning by picking off Almonte at first base. The Yankees' left fielder was initially ruled safe by first-base umpire Marcus Pattillo. Hurdle challenged the call, and the replay review of 42 seconds showed that Ike Davis was able to tag Almonte before he slid back into first.
Morton's outing allowed Hurdle to keep the majority of his bullpen intact for the second game of the doubleheader. The Bucs' starter tossed seven innings on 114 pitches, recording six strikeouts.
Bucs catcher Tony Sanchez began the fifth inning with a solo homer to left field, his second of the season. Clint Barmes followed with a sharp double to left. Walker's single, which bounced off third baseman Johnson's glove, scored Barmes to pull the Pirates within one run.
After the fifth inning, the Yankees only allowed one runner, McCutchen, to reach base.