PITTSBURGH -- Charlie Morton wasn't used to pitching in front of home crowds this big and this into the game.
Pirates fans certainly weren't used to Morton pitching this well last season. Now, strong outings from Morton are becoming routine -- even when he doesn't feel his best.Morton pitched seven solid innings and Pittsburgh sent the Philadelphia Phillies to their fourth consecutive loss, 6-3 Saturday night."His stuff was playing out better, I think, than he was feeling," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He didn't really say he could feel like he could get into a real good rhythm ... but his stuff was playing, and the rhythm started coming in later innings."Morton retired seven of the final eight he faced.Andrew McCutchen and Lyle Overbay each had three hits and Brandon Wood homered for Pittsburgh (28-29), which has won four of five and could complete a sweep of first-place Philadelphia on Sunday to reach .500."Charlie's the man. He's got a super sinker," Wood said. "I don't want to face him, I'll tell you that."Not many were saying that last season, when Morton was 2-12 with a 7.57 ERA as the Pirates lost 105 games. But he has won four of his past five decisions to improve to 6-2. His ERA stands at 2.52 -- fourth in the NL -- after allowing a total of six earned runs over his past five starts.Morton was charged with two runs on six hits and two walks with five strikeouts Saturday, his trademark sinker inducing 11 groundball outs to only two outfield putouts."He was very good," Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins said of Morton. "I even came over to tell [two-time Cy Young winner Roy Halladay] that the first couple of pitches I saw, he really was looking like Roy on the mound. It was pretty funny."He moved the ball around. He got his ground balls -- he's been doing that better than anybody -- and he threw a lot of strikes."Placido Polanco hit a two-out single with the bases loaded in the ninth, but Chase Utley flied out to end the game.The Pirates, 15th in the NL in home attendance, drew the largest crowd in 11-year-old PNC Park's history, 39,441, helped by plenty of Philly fans."That was the most energized crowd that I think I've ever pitched in front of," Morton said. "There was a lot of hostility toward us from a lot of Philly fans, and a ton of supportive fans. It was just an unbelievable atmosphere. It was just pretty awesome."Rollins fouled a ball off his right knee during the game's first at bat and was taken out of the game by the bottom of the third with a bruised right knee.After the game, he was walking with a pronounced limp but did not seem overly concerned the injury was serious. No x-rays were taken, and Phillies manager Manuel said Rollins is day-to-day, though he is not expected to be in the lineup Sunday.With Joe Blanton on the disabled list and Vance Worley in the minors, Kendrick (3-4) made his third start of the season for Philadelphia and first since May 19.He was charged with four runs on eight hits with no walks or strikeouts in five innings."For making a spot start, he was all right," Manuel said. "A lot of times, you give up four runs, you give us a chance to win the game. Nowadays, though, it's not good enough."
After the game, the Phillies optioned LHP Mike Zagurski to Triple-A Lehigh Valley and recalled RHP David Herndon. Zagurski was had a 5.40 ERA in four appearances, and Herndon had a 2.45 for Lehigh Valley after having a 6.32 ERA in 14 relief appearances with Phillies earlier this season. ... Morton came into the game leading the majors with a 1.91 groundball-to-flyball out ratio. ... Philadelphia has scored seven runs during its four-game losing streak. ... The Pirates have won six of seven at home against the Phillies and are 22-12 against them at PNC Park.