The Pirates Are Back in Town

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The last time the Pittsburgh Pirates visited Cincy, it wasn’t a pretty sight for Reds fans. Of that four game series, the Bucs took home three of those four games. In one of the three games that Pittsburgh won, Charlie Morton spun an absolute beauty against the Redlegs. His line: 9 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 3 SO. He tossed 100 pitches with 81 for strikes.

Well, Morton the starting pitcher tonight for the Pirates. And has he ever turned his career onto a right path. In fact, I have read a post by Rob Neyer over on Baseball Nation where Neyer wonders if Morton is the next Roy Halladay. There is even a post on Through the Fence about how Morton is now in the process of replicating Halladay’s delivery. Both are intertesting reads.

Here’s hoping that tonight the Reds don’t really think Morton IS Halladay.

Aside for his start on April 15, the Reds had previously owned Morton. After his performance that evening added with his 2011 season to date. Morton does not resemble the 2-12 Morton of 2010. When Morton threw his gem in mid-April, Morton’s past lack of success was taken as a slap in the face by Reds fans. After all, we were all used to seeing the Reds simply pound this poor guy into the turf. Not so much now.

Morton does have a losing record against the Reds (2-4, 5.18 ERA), but if what Pirates fans have witnessed from the 2011 Charlie Morton, that could be due to swing in the other direction.

In Morton’s last outing, he only went two innings due to weather and the game was called. He hasn’t pitched a “regular” game since May 7. The rest may be a bad omen for the Reds as Morton obviously is well rested. An interesting note here is that Pittsburgh is only 4-3 in games where Morton starts.

Here’s the Reds lineup Morton faces this evening.

1. Stubbs 8
2. Janish 6
3. Votto 3
4. Phillips 4
5. Rolen 5
6. Lewis 9
7. Gomes 7
8. Hanigan 2
9. Arroyo 1

And here’s how Morton fares against the Reds current roster…

Two things to note from that 4/15 affair. One, Brandon Phillips did not play (but the way Morton was dealing that game I don;t think it would have had any impact). Two, Paul Janish didn’t play either. My previous parenthetical phrase holds true here as well.

That run Morton surrendered was a HR to Jay Bruce. It was in the bottom of the 9th and had not an ounce of bearing on the game’s final outcome. Probably the only bad pitch Morton threw all game.

In a re-match of that April 15 game, Bronson Arroyo will take to the mound for the Reds. Here’s his line from that game (it’s not as neat and pretty either): 4 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 2 BB, 40 SO, 2 HR (Neil Walker and Garrett Jones).

This season has had a weird feel to it as far as Arroyo goes. He started 2011 with two wins, then two losses, than another win, then another loss, then two no-decisions. Maybe we’re on the right side of this tricky little pattern. Here’s the batting order awaiting Bronson…

1. McCutchen 8
2. Tabata 7
3. Jones 9
4. Walker 4
5. Overbay 3
6. Alvarez 5
7. Snyder 2
8. Cedeno 6
9. Morton 1

The Reds are 4-4 in games Arroyo has been the starter.

And here’s a look-see at Arroyo’s faring against the current crop of Pirates…

There’s a reason for the lefties. Arroyo has not fared well against them so far in 2011. The slash line for LHB vs. Arroyo this season: .301/.372/.542 with 4 HR. Arroyo’s BAbip vs. LHB is .328 and his SO/BB is only 1.78 compared to 6.67 vs. RHB.

But something might have to give here and I;m not referring to a lefty bat. I;m referring to Andrew McCutchen. You can see that Arroyo has held the star center fielder to an absolute “0” in the hit column. In that 4/15 game, Arroyo faced McCutchen twice and struck him out in the only two times they faced one another. My esteemed FanSided colleague Tom Smith from Rum Bunter informs us, McCutchen is now in a groove…

"Joining Ronny Cedeno in the hot department is Andrew McCutchen. Cutch is 5-for-his-last 13 with a double and two triples."

In fact, McCutchen was below .200 when the Pirates last visited GABP. He’s now up to .242. He’s added almost 50 points to his BA since then.

Should be a good one…and in case you’re wondering. The Pirates have committed the 4th most errors in the NL with 30. Cincinnati has made 21 with 6 of those coming during this homestand.