Morton roars back in Pirates 4-2 win over Marlins

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John Perrotto, The Sports Xchange
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PITTSBURGH -- Charlie Morton got in line with the rest of the Pittsburgh Pirates' pitching staff Wednesday night.

The right-hander pitched seven strong innings and Andrew McCutchen hit his 16th home run of the season to lead the National League Central-leading Pirates to a 4-2 victory over the Miami Marlins.

Morton (4-3) gave up just two runs and six hits while striking out five and not issuing a walk.

He had been 2-2 with a 4.99 ERA in his last five starts, the only pitcher truly struggling on a staff that leads the major leagues with a 3.06 ERA. The Pirates have not topped the major leagues in ERA for an entire season since 1984.

Morton is 4-3 with a 3.88 ERA in 10 starts for the Pirates this season after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery in July 2012 and says he is still getting the hang of pitching with his repaired arm.

"The last thing to come back is control and that's just the reality of the situation," Morton said. "That's what I'm dealing with. I feel like my stuff's good, I feel like my stuff's gotten better and now it's just really figuring out how to pitch again. I didn't pitch for a year. There are a lot of things I'm relearning."

That is why the Pirates have stuck with Morton in the rotation when it has becoming popular for talk show callers and chat room participants to call for his demotion to the bullpen or even to be released.

"He's got pitches to get outs and to get on a roll," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We've seen it in the past. The challenge in front of Charlie is consistency. He got some confidence rolling. He only had two three-ball counts the entire night. His overall command was much improved."

The command was enough to impress Marlins manager Mike Redmond.

"He was good," Redmond said. "He threw a lot of fastballs and just enough breaking balls to keep us honest, and he made the big pitches when he needed to make them."

Tom Koehler (3-7) lost for just the second time in his last seven starts, allowing three runs and four hits in five innings with one walk and eight strikeouts.

McCutchen had two hits as Pittsburgh also had just six hits but won their fourth straight game and improved to 8-2 on its season-long 11-game homestand that ends Thursday. The Pirates' 69-44 record is the best in the major leagues, coming on the heels of 20 consecutive losing seasons.

Mark Melancon, subbing for injured closer Jason Grilli, worked around a leadoff single to pitch a scoreless ninth inning for his seventh save in eight opportunities. Melancon has allowed one run on 12 hits in last 23 appearances, covering 23 innings.

Koehler did not get much run support from a Marlins offense that is last in the major leagues in scoring. Rookie leadoff hitter Christian Yelich had two of the Marlins' seven hits.

Florida lost its fourth straight game in falling to an NL-worst 43-69.

Morton left for a pinch-hitter with the Pirates leading 3-2 but they added an insurance run in the eighth inning on Pedro Alvarez's sacrifice fly.

The Pirates pulled ahead 3-2 with a two-run fifth inning that was aided by two wild pitches by Koehler. Morton's line single tied it and Jordy Mercer scored the go-ahead run on Koehler's second wild pitch.

"It's not like they scored the runs off me but more I gave them the runs," Koehler said. "You can't make the types of mistakes I made against a team that good."

Miami took a 2-0 lead in the fourth as Donovan Solano blooped an RBI single, and another run scored when Adeiny Hechavarria grounded into a double play.

McCutchen hit his solo home run with one out in the fourth to draw the Pirates to 2-1.

The start of the game was delayed 36 minutes by rain.

NOTES: Pittsburgh LHP Wandy Rodriguez threw off a mound Wednesday for the first time since making a rehab start June 23 against for Triple-A Indianapolis and is scheduled to intensify his throwing Saturday. He has been on the disabled list since June 6 with a strained left forearm. ... Pirates INF/OF Josh Harrison made his second start of the season in right field one night after hitting a pinch-hit walk-off home run off Miami LHP Mike Dunn. ... The series concludes on Thursday afternoon with a matchup of rookies as Marlins RHP Jose Fernandez (8-5, 2.54) faces Pittsburgh RHP Gerrit Cole (5-5, 3.69). Fernandez has broken the franchise rookie strikeout record in each of his last two starts, notching 13 whiffs against the Pirates on July 28 and 14 against Cleveland last Friday. ... McCutchen's mother, Petrina, sang the national anthem.