For nine innings and change, the Pirates' pitching matched the world champion San Francisco Giants, until one errant throw -- to first base, not to the catcher -- cost them a 3-2 loss in 10 innings Tuesday night at PNC Park.
Closer Joel Hanrahan absorbed his first loss with an errant pickoff throw that allowed speedy Darren Ford to sprint from first base to third. He then scored the winning run on Freddy Sanchez's groundout.
But the quality of the pitching, in the long run, might stand tallest out of this one.
Charlie Morton continued his 2011 revival by pitching six-plus solid innings, charged with one run and four hits. He struck out six, walked three, continuing to pound sinker after sinker to lower his ERA to 3.00. And this came after his only shaky start, last week in Miami.
"He was solid again. Very solid," manager Charlie Morton said. "Charlie was back in sync."
Chris Resop inherited two of Morton's runners in the seventh with nobody out and continued his superb start by retiring all three batters and stranding the runners. His final out came by fanning Mike Fontenot on an 11-pitch at-bat with high heat.
"I thought Chris should have had him out earlier, but he didn't get the call," Hurdle said. "After that, he wasn't about to get beaten by his secondary pitch."
Jose Veras was just as good, retiring all five batters, including three swinging strikeouts in the ninth.
Overall, the pitching staff that had been worst in the majors last season now has a 4.04 ERA, tied for 16th in the majors with the New York Yankees. Might not sound like much but going from worst to middle-of-the-pack, if it is sustained, would be quite the leap.
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