MIAMI -- Some games a team can seem invincible and other nights it can't seem to get anything right. On Wednesday, the Marlins played the role of the invincible while the Pirates looked a lot like a team facing some hard luck.
The Marlins got to Bucs starter Charlie Morton early and Florida pitcher Ricky Nolasco shut down Pittsburgh's offense to help his club shut out the Pirates for the second straight night, 6-0, before 10,112 at Sun Life Stadium.
"You've got to do things to put yourself in a position to have success," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We haven't scored a run in 18 innings, and they've gotten on top of us early in both games."
Morton, who entered Wednesday night's game 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA, found himself in trouble early and could not prevent the Marlins from having big innings.
Florida took advantage after Morton issued a two-out walk to Nolasco by batting around and scoring four runs in the second inning. While Morton's walk to the Marlins pitcher put the team in a tough spot, the Pirates defense did not help its starter much after that.
"That put us in a bad situation, and the play that followed is the one that got us," Hurdle said. "That really dug the hole deeper."
Following the walk, Chris Coghlan hit a slow grounder to second to push home a run. But second baseman Neil Walker had to double clutch his throw while Lyle Overbay tried to get back to the bag. Then the Pirates first baseman was slow turning around at first, and the speedy Emilio Bonifacio was able to score from second.
"Lyle made an aggressive move to the ball thinking he could get to the ball and get the out at second with the pitcher running," Hurdle said. "Once he got out there, he realized that he wasn't going to be able to get it, and when he tried to stop he slipped. That put him in a very tough spot, and that's what gave Coghlan the opportunity to beat the ball out. We had a chance to stop it at two and we didn't stop it at two."
Things got even worse when Jose Tabata, who was filling in for Andrew McCutchen in center field, kicked a grounder from Omar Infante that allowed Nolasco to score. The extra runs hurt Morton and the Pirates, but the 27-year-old had a tough time regrouping once he issued Nolasco's four-pitch walk. After that, he said the inning just steamrolled him.
"It's hard anytime, especially when you walk the pitcher," Morton said. "I'm not saying he can't hit, but when you walk the pitcher and you feel like they're gaining momentum, then it gets hard. They had two ground-ball hits in the second inning, and then the chopper with the bases loaded and then they started putting solid contact on it and it became a really long inning."
Things did not get any easier for the Pirates starter. An inning later, Morton found himself in another jam that he struggled to get out of. With runners on second and third, Bonifacio smacked a one-out single to left to push home a run. Two batters later, Coghlan singled home another run to put the Bucs in an even deeper hole.
"I've learned how one pitch is very important, and you can stop it at one pitch," Morton said of the long Marlins rallies. "I just didn't tonight." Morton eventually settled down after the third, but it was too late. He finished the night allowing six runs on 10 hits over five innings while striking out six.
"They were just hitting my sinker," Morton said. "It wasn't sinking. It wasn't as effective as it has been and I didn't make the adjustment. Instead of maybe mixing it up more I tried to force the issue and just throw sinkers."
Nolasco's night was almost the complete opposite of his counterpart's. The right-hander shut down the Pirates, limiting them to just four hits over seven shutout innings while striking out eight.
"He was strike one on pretty much every single hitter tonight," Walker said. "He was throwing his offspeed [pitches] early for strikes and had his best pitch, his slider, down in the zone 0-2 and 1-2. When you're not laying off of those pitches you're going to have a tough time. I think that's what made him successful tonight."
Nolasco also got some help from his defense when the Bucs appeared to be on the verge of breaking up the shutout. Chris Snyder doubled into the left-field corner, but Pedro Alvarez was thrown out at home to end the seventh thanks to a perfect relay throw by Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez.
"I give [third-base coach] Nick [Leyva] credit for being aggressive and trying to get us a run," Hurdle said. "The throw ended up taking the catcher's glove right to home plate. You give them some credit for finishing the play, but we've got to make some better in-game adjustments offensively."
The Pirates have now struck out 22 times over the past two games, including 17 against the Marlins starters. Hurdle would like to see his team cut down on its strikeouts.
"The punchouts continue to haunt us from time to time," Hurdle said. "I thought we got out of that cycle a little bit, and we got back into it. Over the last two nights, they've thrown close to seven innings of the pitcher playing pitch and catch. 22 punchouts in 18 innings is seven innings of the pitcher and catcher playing catch, and that puts you in a tough position to score."
Pittsburgh's skipper knows his players are capable of scoring runs. He just thinks some minor tinkering with their approach would help them perform more consistently.
"We've got to make some better adjustments during the game and they're all aware of them, but this is the transition point. At the Major League level, the recovery time is critical. We've got to speed up our recovery time and get our bats back in play with more consistency."
David Villavicencio is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.