The Pittsburgh Pirates’ offense has struggled of late, but the pitching staff has been stellar in the team’s last two victories.
The Pirates continue their series against the major league-worst Houston Astros on Wednesday looking for their fourth victory in five games.
Pittsburgh (33-33) held on for a 1-0 victory Tuesday, getting a Garrett Jones(notes) RBI single in the second inning as its only offensive output. The Pirates have won three of four, but have scored only seven runs during that stretch.
However, the pitching staff has allowed one run in consecutive four-hitters to make the limited production stand. Jeff Karstens(notes) allowed three hits in seven innings Tuesday, helping the Pirates end a nine-game losing streak in Houston.
“Our pitching has been outstanding,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “Jeff was very, very effective again tonight. Talk about stepping on and off the gas, using his fastball in spots, mixing in his breaking ball, slider, changeup - all his pitches.”
Morton (6-3, 3.08 ERA), who has already set a career high in victories, beat the Astros 6-1 on May 7, allowing one run in 7 2-3 innings for his first victory in five career starts against them. He went 0-3 with a 9.00 in his previous four starts versus Houston.
However, the right-hander is coming off one of his worst outings of the year Thursday when he allowed a season-high seven runs in a loss to the New York Mets. The four innings pitched marked his shortest start of the season.
Morton will look to bounce back against the Astros (25-43), who have lost nine of 11 overall and six of eight at Minute Maid Park. Despite the team’s well-publicized struggles, Tuesday marked only the second time Houston has been shut out this season.
“The loss is pretty painful,” Pence said. “We have to find way to win series, and tonight I was not able to contribute. I feel like I had good at-bats, they pitched well and ultimately, it is about wins and losses and the streak was fun. It was a great experience, and I hope some of the fans got to enjoy it a little bit.”
The Astros’ struggles are due in large part to their pitching staff, which has allowed 342 runs - the most in the majors. J.A. Happ(notes) (3-8, 5.04) hasn’t contributed much of anything positive lately.
Happ is 0-4 with a 4.45 ERA over his last five starts after allowing six runs - his most since April 21 - in 5 1-3 innings Thursday against St. Louis. The left-hander did pitch well May 8 against the Pirates but didn’t earn a decision, allowing two runs in six innings. He’s 2-2 with a 2.18 ERA in five career starts against Pittsburgh.
The Pirates have won five of six between the teams.