In the first two innings tonight, Charlie Morton threw 42 pitches. Of those 42, 34 were sinkers and only two were swinging strikes. As it has this year with Morton, that resulted in a lot of balls in play. Unfortunately for Morton, some of those balls found holes, his players failed to make some plays, and an inning that could've ended without anyone scoring ended with four runs on the board for the Marlins.
Morton didn't pitch badly in the second and it's not his fault that Neil Walker double-clutched on an easy inning-ending grounder (a play that was inexplicably called a hit, which made all those runs earned, which is more proof that ERA is dumb and irrelevant), but I've been saying since Morton's second start that if he keeps hammering away with one pitch and letting the other team put ball after ball into play, bad things are eventually going to happen.
Before the game I wished for Morton to see some adversity to see how he reacted to it. He hit a speed bump in the second inning and how did he respond? With more curveballs! He ended up with 17 curves in 91 pitches tonight, well more than double the rate he used the pitch going into the game tonight. What was the result? Eight swinging strikes (six after the second) and six strikeouts in six innings, including striking out the side in the fifth.
I'm going to take a more detailed look at his inning-by-inning pitch breakdown in the next few days, but the bottom line is that Morton pitched much better after his defense collapsed behind him. It's trite, but throwing a sinker over and over again is more "throwing" than "pitching." That's fine if it's getting results, but without swings and misses Morton shouldn't be relying on results as a one-trick pony indefinitely. He's going to need his curve, he's going to need to be able to buzz a four-seamer in from time to time. He's capable of it; he's done it before and he did it again after he got into trouble tonight. If this game ends up being a step towards Morton blending his wicked 2011 sinker with the pitches he found some success with in the past, it's going to be a positive no matter how ugly this final score looks tonight.
As for the offense: bleh. Come back soon, 'Cutch.
UPDATE: Tonight was the second straight game in which the Pirates were shut out. As tradition dictates, it's time to answer the question, "Will the Pirates ever score?" (thanks to Matt Bandi for the reminder).