Adam LaRoche, Matt Morris lead Pirates past skidding Arizona, 5-1
PITTSBURGH (AP)—This wasn’t supposed to be happening to these Arizona Diamondbacks, not now and especially not in this place.
Adam LaRoche drove in three runs with a pair of doubles and Matt Morris pitched effectively over seven innings as the Pirates beat Arizona for the second night in a row, a 5-1 decision Wednesday that further tightened the NL West race.
The Diamondbacks, in position when the series started to clinch the division before going to Colorado to finish the season, have dropped three in a row since winning five of six. Their lead was trimmed to a game over San Diego, which beat San Francisco 11-3, and their magic number for clinching the division remained at four. Colorado beat Los Angeles 2-0 to move within two games of Arizona.
“It definitely puts some pressure on us, but you can’t push the panic button—we’re still in a good spot,” Conor Jackson said. “We need to come out and play like we have the last two months. This is kind of uncharacteristic for our ballclub, but we’re going to bounce back. We’ve got four games to do some damage.”
Especially Thursday, when they throw staff ace Brandon Webb (17-10), last year’s NL Cy Young Award winner, against the Pirates’ John Van Benschoten (0-6, 9.73 ERA), whose only major league win came in 2004.
“If you’re sitting in spring training saying that, going into last four, we’re in this position, we’re going to take it,” manager Bob Melvin said. “We’ve had a couple of losses here, but one win will cure it.”
For two nights, the Pirates haven’t resembled the team that had lost nine in a row entering the series and has long since been assured of a 15th consecutive losing season, one off the major league record.
“They’re not going to throw a party over there, not while they’re here,” manager Jim Tracy said.
Pirates rookie Nyjer Morgan tormented Arizona again by reaching base three times, getting a pair of hits and making an excellent catch that possibly prevented the Diamondbacks from taking a lead in the second inning. Xavier Nady added a solo homer against Livan Hernandez (11-11), who struggled yet again in PNC Park by allowing 10 hits and four runs over four-plus innings.
“People think we’re going to be a pushover,” Morgan said. “But everybody here comes to play everyday.”
The Diamondbacks, in the division lead all but one day since Aug. 31, don’t know much about Morgan, who wasn’t with the Pirates for their previous two series against Arizona. They’re very familiar with Morris (10-11) from his nearly two seasons with the Giants. Not that it mattered, as the right-hander limited them to one run and six hits in the longest of his 11 starts since being traded to Pittsburgh on July 31.
Morris is only 1-2 in four starts against Arizona this season but has a 2.48 ERA, losing a 1-0 decision on June 6.
“I don’t think we’ve ever hit him good in the history of the Diamondbacks,” Chris Young said. “He knows how to throw the ball over the plate, especially on the corners.”
The Pirates, 7-15 in September before the series began, jumped on Hernandez in the third, not long after a 59-minute rain delay. Morris, a .228 hitter, started it with the first of his two singles and Morgan singled ahead of LaRoche’s two-run double.
Minutes before in the top of the inning, Morgan ran down Chris Young’s long drive to the center field wall with runners on first and second—the latest in a series of exceptional catches he has made since his callup earlier this month. Hernandez became confused and passed Augie Ojeda on the bases, an automatic out that resulted in an unusual double play and ended the threat.
Arizona didn’t score until Jackson’s two-out double in the sixth, with the Pirates up 4-0. Jose Castillo doubled and scored on Morgan’s single in the fourth, and Nady hit his 20th homer leading off the fifth. Morgan homered and had two hits as the Pirates won 6-5 Tuesday after Arizona rallied from a four-run deficit.
“I don’t know if we’re pressing, trying to do too much,” Young said. “We’re just not getting the big hit right now. But we still have the lead, and it’s not the worst thing in the world. … We still control our own destiny, we just got to win ballgames.”
Pirates 2B Freddy Sanchez will miss the team’s final five games to undergo arthroscopic shoulder surgery Friday. … Ojeda had reached base six times in a row before striking out in the seventh. … Arizona is 4-4 against Pittsburgh this season. … The Diamondbacks have dropped five of seven road games. … With 68 victories, the Pirates are assured of topping their 67-95 records of each of the previous two seasons. … Hernandez is 1-4 in PNC Park. … Arizona has been outscored 18-7 in its last three games.