Published November 20, 2014
Charlie Morton gave a sheepish smile, and he fumbled through a stock answer.
Asked what his secret is against the Cincinnati Reds this season, Morton was keeping his lips sealed.
For the first time in four starts against the National League's second-highest scoring team this season, Morton didn't earn the win against the Reds — but the Pittsburgh Pirates still did.
Morton didn't have his best stuff, though he pitched six effective innings and the Pirates beat the Reds 5-3 Saturday.
Morton lowered his ERA to 0.93 ERA in 29 innings against the Reds this season.
"Successes breeds confidence," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. "He went out there against that team today with far from his best stuff, but delivered a very gutsy performance, a very gritty performance and held them to two runs in six innings.
"He seems to enjoy the challenge of facing that offense. It's a very good offense."
"They kind of bled Chapman there," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "They got a couple of soft hits, especially the little blooper to right (by Walker)."
Recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis earlier in the day, rookie Tony Watson (1-2) got his first major league victory by getting the final two outs of the top of the seventh after the Reds had tied it at 3 against Chris Resop.
"He gave us what we needed in a tight spot, definitely," Hurdle said of Watson, who woke up at 6 this morning and drove five hours to Pittsburgh.
"A day I'll never forget," Watson said.
Pittsburgh's Jose Veras pitched a scoreless eighth, striking out Drew Stubbs and Dave Sappelt after allowing the first two batters of the inning to reach. A day after allowing a season-high three runs in taking the loss, Joel Hanrahan worked a perfect the ninth for his 31st save but first since July 28.
Morton had a scoreless innings streak of 24 snapped in the final inning of his most recent outing on Sunday when Hanrahan allowed an inherited runner to score.
Morton allowed a run for the second consecutive inning when Phillips led off Saturday's game with a single, moved to second on a groundout and came home when Votto singled to right.
But Morton faced only one over the minimum over the next 4 2-3 innings before Phillips and Votto each singled again to produce a run in the sixth. Morton was charged with two runs on seven hits, a walk and two strikeouts. He has allowed three runs in four starts versus the Reds this season.
"I don't know," Morton said when asked about facing the Reds. "I just know we've got a gameplan, and we try to stick to it."
A true sinkerballer who has the majors' best ratio of outs by groundball, Morton is sometimes susceptible to days when his sinker, well, isn't sinking.
"That happens, so it's nothing new. It's nothing different," he said. "You've just got to make an adjustment."
RBI singles by Ronny Cedeno in the fourth and Ryan Ludwick and Walker — consecutively in the fifth — gave Pittsburgh the lead, and Morton was in line to improve to 4-0 against Cincinnati this season after he was lifted following six innings.
But the Reds quickly tied the game against Resop when Ramon Hernandez doubled in Stubbs.
Cincinnati's Dontrelle Willis remained winless in eight starts this season, allowing three runs on eight hits and three walks in six innings.
"A lot of things dictate wins and losses," Willis said. "I like the way I'm throwing the ball. I like the way I'm competing and I like the way the guys are competing for me. It's just a matter of pitch there or one thing there that seems to make the difference in every game."
NOTES: Not counting the 2006 All-Star game, the game was the first televised by Fox at PNC Park since 2004. ... The crowd of 37,826 was Pittsburgh's 16th sellout of the season, most since 2001. It was the eighth consecutive Saturday sellout there. ... Mike Leake, the Reds' starter Sunday, has allowed only seven earned runs in five career starts against Pittsburgh. No current Pirates players have homered off of him. ... The previous time Pirates RHP James McDonald faced Cincinnati on July 19, he pitched into the seventh and was part of a combined shutout. McDonald starts Sunday. ... Hurdle said RHP Brad Lincoln would start the second game of a doubleheader on Monday vs. Milwaukee. He also indicated that RHP Ross Ohlendorf would be recalled to start Tuesday's game.