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Squandered chances cost Bucs in loss to O's

Pirates strand 13 runners in dropping first game of doubleheader

BALTIMORE -- The Pirates came up with plenty of scoring chances in the first game of Thursday's doubleheader, they just couldn't cash in on them.

The Pirates finished 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position and stranded 13. Those missed opportunities were a big reason that the Orioles stayed close early and then rallied to pull out a 5-1 victory at Camden Yards.

Pittsburgh's recent slide continued with this loss. The Pirates have now dropped two in a row and nine of their last 11, and the lack of timely hitting has really hurt.

"We couldn't bust a big hit," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We had [Baltimore starter Bud] Norris on the ropes four of the five [innings] that he was out there [and] couldn't push through on him. ... We're still looking for that big hit."

The Pirates left two runners on base in the first, third, sixth, eighth and ninth innings as Norris (2-2) and the Orioles' bullpen kept escaping trouble.

Bucs starter Charlie Morton (0-4) was solid for the first four innings, blanking the Orioles before things turned around for him after a 21-minute rain delay preceding the fifth. That's when he gave up three runs -- plus one more in the sixth -- for a total of four runs (two earned) on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings.

"I don't want to put my finger on the rain delay, but it was really two different pitchers," Hurdle said. "The first four innings, we had sync, we had ground balls, we had a breaking ball that was planned and we had a split-change that was working as well."

Morton clearly was frustrated about his problems after the delay and looking for answers afterward.

"I didn't execute, and Bud went through the same rain delay," Morton said. "I don't really know. I just didn't execute."

The problems started early, with the Pirates wasting scoring chances in each of the first two innings before breaking through in the third. Jose Tabata began the inning with a triple to deep center. After Norris retired the next two batters, Pedro Alvarez singled up the middle to give Pittsburgh a one-run lead.

Left fielder Starling Marte then tried to manufacture a run by himself in the fourth. He battled Norris through a 12-pitch at-bat to earn a leadoff walk. He then stole second while Tony Sanchez struck out, and tried for third as Jordy Mercer grounded out, but Orioles first baseman Steve Pearce threw him out, ending the inning.

Morton's problems started in the fifth. Delmon Young led off with a single before Morton walked Steve Clevenger. J.J. Hardy tried to sacrifice but reached when Alvarez bounced a throw to first, and that error loaded the bases.

Pearce then tied the score with an RBI single to left, and Ryan Flaherty followed with a two-run single to give Baltimore a two-run lead.

Morton ran into more trouble in the sixth, giving up two more hits, the second another Pearce RBI single that gave the Orioles a three-run lead and ended the right-hander's night.

Morton's big problems came with the bottom two hitters in the Orioles' lineup, Pearce and Flaherty, each of whom finished with two RBIs. The Orioles just re-signed Pearce, and this was his first appearance in the lineup. He tied a career high with three hits.

"Stevie gave us a real lift," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Stevie was a big contributor. Great example of players having an opportunity of deciding where they want to play. He wants to play [here]. We're thankful."

Jeanmar Gomez relieved Morton and avoided more trouble in the sixth but gave up a solo homer to Nick Markakis in the seventh. The Pirates then wasted good scoring chances in the eighth and ninth, and the Orioles locked up the win.

Jeff Seidel is a contributor to
Read More: Pittsburgh Pirates, Charlie Morton