The Pittsburgh Pirates have the best ERA in baseball despite Charlie Morton having a couple of rough outings recently.
He’ll look to get back on track in a rematch with Miami Marlins starter Tom Koehler on Wednesday night as host Pittsburgh seeks an eighth victory in 10 games.
NL Central-leading Pittsburgh (68-44) has a major league-best 3.07 ERA and is in position to lead the majors in that category for the first time since 1984. Its starters have posted a baseball-best 3.20 mark despite Morton (3-3, 4.07 ERA) going 2-2 with a 4.99 ERA over his last five outings.
The right-hander allowed five runs and a season-worst 10 hits in six innings of a 13-0 loss to St. Louis on Thursday.
“He’s working to improve the consistency and the tempo and the timing of his delivery,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “It got a little whacked (Thursday) in the stretch, so there’s room for improvement.”
Morton also didn’t have his best stuff July 27 when he faced the Marlins, giving up four runs and nine hits in five innings, but he picked up a 7-4 victory. He’s 3-3 with a 5.11 ERA in seven career starts versus Miami, which again counters with Koehler.
Koehler (3-6, 4.34) gave up five runs and nine hits in five innings against Morton and suffered the loss. He bounced back, though, and scattered five hits in six innings of a 3-0 win over the New York Mets on Thursday.
”The key is really not to think about it too much,” Koehler said. “You put up zeros against anybody who’s pitching, your team tends to be in pretty good shape.”
The right-hander is 3-1 with a 3.18 ERA in his last six starts and will face a Pirates team coming off a dramatic victory after Josh Harrison’s pinch-hit homer in the bottom of the ninth secured a 4-3 win in Tuesday’s series opener.
”Those are little things that happen that make you go ‘Yeah, something’s going on,”’ Hurdle said of Harrison’s homer and ensuing pie-to-the-face stunt from his teammates. ”There’s no doubt the more feel good you get, the more you feel good.”
Neil Walker went 3 for 4, and Andrew McCutchen had a two-run double as part of his fourth straight two-hit game. McCutchen is hitting .435 in his last seven versus the Marlins.
Miami (43-68) has dropped three straight after blowing a three-run lead Tuesday. Donovan Solano went 3 for 5, and Logan Morrison, who is 9 for 17 over his last four, had an RBI single.
”We couldn’t get that hit to give us a little breathing room,” manager Mike Redmond said. “I get so tired of talking about the same old stuff. We’ve played that game right there I don’t know how many times this season. We’ve been on the winning end of some but we’ve been on the losing end of many of them.”
The Marlins - last in the majors in runs scored - have scored three runs or fewer in six of their last seven games, but the starting rotation has a 1.90 ERA in that stretch. The bullpen, though, has allowed four runs and nine hits in six innings over their three-game losing streak.
Pittsburgh has won four straight at home over Miami.