PITTSBURGH (AP)—The Pittsburgh Pirates are paying Matt Morris $10 million to anchor their starting rotation, or nearly half of Florida’s $22 million payroll. So far, the Marlins are getting a much bigger payoff for their bucks than the Pirates are.
Hanley Ramirez, Josh Willingham and Dan Uggla homered and Marlins pitcher Mark Hendrickson, normally one of the majors’ worst hitters, had two hits while pitching eight innings of Florida’s 10-4 victory over the slumping Pirates on Monday night.
Ramirez, a .457 career hitter in PNC Park, hit a two-run homer during a four-run second inning against Morris (0-3), giving him three homers in two games. Willingham added a two-run drive as Florida scored three more times in the third to make it 7-2.
Uggla hit a solo homer and had three of Florida’s 11 extra-base hits. In all the Marlins had 16 hits, and all nine Marlins starters got at least one of them.
“The way Mark threw took the pressure off us, He started shutting them down, and that’s what you’ve got to do to win ballgames,” Uggla said. “He kind of let us relax a little bit and the next thing you know, we’re putting good swings on balls and getting runs.”
The Pirates, coming off a miserable road trip in which they were outscored 52-18 while losing five of six to the Dodgers and Cubs, lost their sixth in a row and gave up double-digit runs for the third consecutive game. They hadn’t done that since Montreal scored a combined 35 runs during a three-game sweep in June 1994.
Pittsburgh has given up 10 or more runs four times during its six-game losing streak, including 36 runs the last three games. They lost to the Cubs 13-1 on Saturday and 13-6 on Sunday.
Pirates manager John Russell said constantly falling behind by big margins is putting a tremendous amount of pressure on his own hitters.
“It’s tough when you look up after two or three innings and the opposing team has put up eight runs. It’s hard,” Russell said. “It shuts down a lot of the things you can do as an offensive club.”
Especially when the starting pitcher is shutting no one down.
Morris said he felt excellent between starts, had productive sessions with pitching coach Jeff Andrews and the ballclub held a pregame meeting in which Russell said “all the right things.”
“I had a lot of faith in today,” said Morris, who constantly fell behind in the count and had inconsistent velocity—sometimes throwing his fastball in the mid-80 mph range. “I had a lot of positive thoughts. To get out on the rubber and have one of the worst games I’ve ever pitched …”
Morris surrendered homers to Ramirez and Willingham while yielding eight runs and nine hits in four innings. Morris, whose salary represents about one-fifth of the Pirates’ payroll, has allowed 25 runs, 21 earned, in 20 2-3 innings and has a 9.15 ERA.
“I believe I still have the pitches in me (to get outs),” Morris said.
Hendrickson (4-1) won his fourth in a row despite giving up four runs, three earned, and eight hits, but it was his own hitting that was the surprise.
The 6-foot-9 former NBA player—an .071 career hitter coming in—was 1-for-46 the last two seasons and 1-for-27 with the Dodgers last season. No matter, he doubled and scored in the fourth inning before hitting a run-scoring single an inning later.
“We work on hitting every day at home, we kind of go through hitting like a hitter does,” Hendrickson said. “Hopefully it will pay off and tonight it did.”
Hendrickson already has three hits this season, or two more than he had in any of the previous five major league seasons in which he batted. He also has as many wins as he did while going 4-8 with the Dodgers last season.
The Marlins, off to a surprising 12-7 start, continued their unexpected surge of power hitting. They traded star Miguel Cabrera during the offseason, yet their 29 homers are the second most in the NL.
“There’s a lot of energy in clubhouse and when we’re hitting,” Mike Rabelo said. “We’re having fun and hopefully we can keep this ball rolling.”
Pirates center fielder Nate McLouth extended his season-long hitting streak to 19 gams when he singled in the eighth. He has the longest streak at the start of a season since Atlanta’s Edgar Renteria hit in 23 straight in 2006.
McLouth’s streak is the Pirates’ longest at any stage of a season since Jason Kendall’s 20-game streak in 2004. … The Pirates have lost nine of 13. … The five-game season series between the two teams ends Tuesday night.