SAN DIEGO -- It took the Pittsburgh Pirates a few cracks at it, but they found a way to sustain some traction on offense Monday night when they loaded the bases for a fourth time.
Strong offensively all game, the Pirates linked some hits together for a three-run seventh inning that sent them to a 10-3 win against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. The Pirates won for the fourth time in five games after taking three of four from the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Charlie Morton held the Padres hitless through four, but walked two batters, hit two more and committed an error that allowed a fifth batter to reach base.
The Padres saved their hits for the fifth, which they entered trailing, 3-0, before stringing together three hits to score two runs. Alexi Amarista singled and scored on Everth Cabrera's double to the gap in left-center field. Seth Smith's RBI single reduced the Pirates' lead to 3-2.
Morton (2-7) allowed two runs on three hits. He walked three and hit three batters, but tied a career high with nine strikeouts.
Neil Walker drove in an insurance run in the sixth to increase the Pirates' lead to 4-2, but Russell Martin struck out looking with the bases loaded to end the inning.
That was a theme for the Pirates. After they scored two runs in the third, Pedro Alvarez struck out with the bases loaded, and Andrew McCutchen grounded into an inning-ending double play with the bases full in the fourth.
In the seventh, that changed. Harrison singled with the bases loaded to drive one run in and Walker doubled to score two more.
Entering the start, Morton led major league starters in hard-hit average against, according to ESPN Stats and Information. At-bats against Morton ended with a well-struck ball only 9.3 percent of the time.
"When you look to center a ball, you're looking to hit a ball on the barrel, so there comes a point in time when you get your swing off," manager Clint Hurdle said before the game. "Charlie's ball, when it moves this much further, now instead of the barrel you're off the end of the bat."
Limiting hard contact usually correlates to improved performance, but soft hits in the right places can be just as damaging.
"To have a 3.30 ERA and your record 1-7, oh yeah, there's some funny things that are weird that are happening," Hurdle said. "Some in control, some out of his control."
That exact phenomenon displayed itself in the first. Padres leadoff batter Cabrera dribbled a slow roller in front of the plate, to Morton's left. Morton fielded and threw, but lost his footing slightly, and the throw went wide. Morton then walked Seth Smith on four pitches.
Morton struck out Carlos Quentin on a curveball, got Chase Headley looking at a fastball and forced Yonder Alonso to ground out and end the inning.
Tim Stauffer entered the start after lasting only one-third of an inning in his previous outing. He threw 37 pitches and allowed seven runs on six hits against the Arizona Diamondbacks before leaving. Monday, Stauffer's third inning resulted in another 30-plus-pitch affair that forced him from the game: seven batters, 32 pitches, three hits, two runs, one home run, two walks, one balk.
Jordy Mercer pummeled a 2-2 fastball 414 feet into the seats in left field to lead off the third. After Morton struck out, Harrison and Walker singled, with Harrison taking second on a balk and third on Walker's hit.
McCutchen walked to load the bases. Ike Davis' sacrifice fly scored another run. Stauffer's last act was a walk to Martin to load the bases again, but lefty Alex Torres replaced Stauffer and struck out Alvarez to end the inning.
In his 2 2/3 innings, Stauffer threw only 40 of his 71 pitches for strikes and allowed two runs on four hits.
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