Morris' woes continue in loss to LA
Righty cruises through three, struggles in fourth, fifth frames
LOS ANGELES -- For Matt Morris, it was more of the same on Monday night. Frustrating. Ineffective. And a loss.
A lack of fastball command and elevated pitches coupled with some clutch, two-out hitting by the Dodgers was enough to send the Pirates reeling to an 11-2 defeat at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night.
The loss snapped a season-best four-game winning streak for the Pirates and pushed the Pirates to 0-3 in starts made by Morris this year.
The veteran right-hander wouldn't make it through the fifth on Monday, as the 4 2/3 innings he finished marked his shortest outing yet this season. After being charged with six runs, Morris has now given up 13 earned runs in 16 2/3 innings this season.
"I don't know what to say," Morris said afterward, his answers void of expression.
Morris' tailspin started in the fourth after he had faced the minimum through three innings. What Zach Duke did so effectively on Monday night in avoiding the big inning despite not being at his best, Morris couldn't emulate one night later.
A leadoff double to Los Angeles shortstop Rafael Furcal was the first of three straight hits Morris surrendered in the inning. The fourth hit, an RBI single to James Loney, would spot the Dodgers a 3-1 lead.
"In the beginning, he was hitting his spots," said catcher Ronny Paulino afterward. "And then all of a sudden, they started getting aggressive."
"After that, they didn't miss," he added.
Said Dodgers manager Joe Torre: "He certainly had the best of us the first few innings. We made him work a little harder after that. "
The three-run fourth-inning proved to be just the prelude for a five-run, fifth-inning outburst.
Dodgers center fielder Andruw Jones laid off a borderline 3-2 pitch to take a leadoff walk in the fifth before Morris rebounded to get the next two outs. But two consecutive Los Angeles hits plated two more runs and signaled the premature end of the evening for the Pittsburgh right-hander.
"He missed his spots, got some balls up and they took advantage of it," manager John Russell said. "You see during those first few innings when he hits his spots and gets the ball down, he's effective. He just got away from it and the ball started elevating and got over the plate."
Morris was relieved by lefty Phil Dumatrait, who had no better luck against the Dodgers offense. After hitting a batter on a 1-2 pitch, Dumatrait then served up a three-run homer to Jeff Kent that ran the Dodgers' lead to seven. All the runs Los Angeles scored that inning came with two out.
"It's just continuing to make the pitch," said Morris, who dropped to 1-2 on the season. "The fifth inning there is two outs and a man on second and all of a sudden they end up getting five runs. I was one pitch away from getting out of it and keeping it 3-1."
With the game well out of hand, Evan Meek came on to pitch the final two innings of relief for the Pirates. The 24-year-old right-hander gave up two runs (one earned) on four hits in his two innings of work.
Meek, a Rule 5 Draft pick, has now been scored upon in four of his five Major League appearances.
While it was the Dodgers who blew this one open in the five-run fifth, minutes after the game started, it appeared that the Pirates could be the ones poised to leap out to an early.
Dodgers starter Hong-Chih Kuo was erratic at the start of Tuesday's game, throwing 10 straight balls at one point in the first. But the Pirates barely capitalized on his control problems.
After Freddy Sanchez beat out a potential inning-ending double play in the first, three straight walks pushed across the Pirates' first run of the night. But when third baseman Jose Bautista struck out to end the Pirates' chance of tacking onto that lead, it also ended the best offensive chance the Pirates would have all evening.
"We had opportunities early, and we didn't take advantage of them," Xavier Nady said. "At the beginning there, you just have to make him throw strikes. We did that and to his credit, he found his slot after that."
Five of the next eight hitters would strike out against Kuo. And the Pirates would not have a runner advance past second until the eighth when Nate McLouth doubled and later scored an inconsequential run.
"He was all over the place at the beginning and then all of a sudden he got one guy and then he had his rhythm," Paulino said of Kuo. "He has a very good fastball and once he found that command, he was fine."
For McLouth, the eighth-inning double was his second hit of the night and extended his season hitting streak to 14 games.
McLouth's double, however, came at a cost to hitting coach Don Long.
Long required 10 stitches in his left cheek after the game after being hit in the face by McLouth's bat when the center fielder threw it after connecting for the hit. The bat ricocheted off Jason Bay and hit Long, who was standing on the left-hand side of the Pirates' dugout, square in the cheek.
Though he had a noticeable gash and blood still on his face afterward, Long came into the clubhouse smiling.
"Don't worry about it," Long told McLouth, as the outfielder went over to apologize. "I'll be OK."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.