Charlie Morton Shakes Off Slump, Pitches Pirates Past Cubs 4-2

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Pirates have stuck with Charlie Morton in their starting rotation despite his awful start.

On Wednesday night, Morton showed why.

Morton was effective for the first time this season, allowing two runs in six-plus innings, and the Pirates beat the Chicago Cubs for the second straight night, 4-2.

Morton (1-5), who entered the game as the worst starter in the majors in terms of ERA (12.57) and was tied for worst with five losses, did not allow a hit in five of his six innings and did not walk a batter to win for the first time since shutting out the Cubs Sept. 30.

"There's been so much support in the clubhouse and so much support in the front office that they made it clear all I need to do is go out and throw the ball," Morton said. "I wasn't trusting myself and just letting the ball go. The monkey's off my back in the sense that I realize now that I can simplify my approach and get good results."

Chicago's Ted Lilly didn't walk a batter and there were no free passes in the game.

Ryan Church homered for the second consecutive game, Garrett Jones had two hits and two RBIs, and Octavio Dotel earned his fifth save in seven opportunities for Pittsburgh, which improved to 9-1 in games decided by two runs or less.

"It'd just been so hard for [Morton] to finally get off the schnide," Church said. "Tonight he really went out there and pitched aggressive, went after people, got 1-2-3 innings, kept guys off base. I'm glad we scored enough runs for him."

Slumping Aramis Ramirez was moved down to the No. 6 spot in the order but had a hit and an RBI for Chicago.

Morton retired the first eight Cubs before hitting Lilly with a pitch with two outs in the third. He allowed four hits in a two-run fourth but retired the next seven before being lifted when Ramirez singled to lead off the seventh.

In his previous five starts, Morton hadn't allowed less than six runs and had completed at least four innings only once.

"I think he will take some confidence out of that [fourth inning]," Pirates manager John Russell said. "They got the bases loaded and he got out of it with just two runs. It could have been a lot worse. … It's a good game to build off for him. He pitched real well."

Three of the first four Pittsburgh batters of the game had hits against Lilly (1-2), but the Pirates pushed across only one run, Bobby Crosby scoring on Jones' single.

The Pirates began the third with three straight doubles, taking a 3-0 lead when Andrew McCutchen and Jones drove in Andy LaRoche and McCutchen.

Church's homer was on an 0-1 pitch to right with one out in the sixth. He has reached during all eight games he has appeared in at PNC Park this season — despite the fact he's had a case of the stomach flu the past two days when he homered.

"It's working, though," Church said. "I don't feel good doing it, but hey, if it works, so be it. You run with it."

Lilly was charged with four runs and nine hits with two strikeouts in six innings. He was making his third start since being activated April after offseason shoulder surgery.

"It's going to take him a couple starts to get to where he needs to go," Chicago manager Lou Piniella said. "Today he didn't throw the ball poorly … [but] he doesn't give up three doubles in a row too often. He's going through the end of his spring training now. He'll be better."

Said Lilly: "It's still disappointing when you don't throw the way you expect to. I certainly feel like I should be giving us better efforts than I have last two outings."

The Cubs, 3-2 losers here Tuesday after a three-game winning streak at home, got all their runs in the fourth on Ramirez's sacrifice fly and Mike Fontenot's RBI single.

"I thought the way we swung the bats at the end of the homestand, we'd come on the road and there'd be a nice carryover," Piniella said. "The first two games, it didn't start the right away."

Ramirez, batting .149 coming in, had batted third, fourth or fifth all season. … The Pirates are 7-4 at home, 10-1 when scoring at least four runs and 9-0 when leading after four. … Pittsburgh 1B Steve Pearce made his season debut after being recalled from the minors Tuesday. He went 0-for-3. … Chicago OF Alfonso Soriano failed to tie a club record by homering in his fifth consecutive game. He went 1-for-4.

TMZ logo

© 2018 NESN

Partner of USATODAY Sports Digital Properties