Whether or not Charlie Morton will be able to pitch again this season remains to be seen. Even if he is, Vance Worley might have just made the decision easy for Clint Hurdle on who to put in the rotation.
Worley was sensational, throwing eight scoreless, four hit, five strikeout, and zero walk innings. Worley threw a mere 82 pitches, 63 for strikes, and was taken out solely for the purpose to pad the lead. Russell Martin drove in the only run of the game, knocking in Andrew McCutchen with a line drive single to center, after McCutchen reached base by a single and advanced with a passed ball and wild pitch. It was one of only five hits the Pirates generated off of Wily Peralta, but evidently was enough due to Worley’s outing.
“He had everything working,” Clint Hurdle said. “Change of speed, location, backdoor cutters to left-handers, back foot breaking balls to right-handers. He pitched tight, he pitched away, he changed speeds. Excellent.”
Martin offered similar sentiments.
“It’s a combination of executing pitches and just being aggressive, and throwing the first punch out there every time. He wasn’t nitpicking. He just attacked the zone, threw a lot of strikes, and used his defense.”
After being taken out of the rotation for Morton in his last start, the rest over the last week was helpful in Worley reigning form.
“Mechanically it was better. I got that start off and had some time to get my feet back under me,” Worley said.
Besides rest, Worley was able to mix his pitches effectively. He threw five pitches today — a two-seamer, a four seamer, slider, cutter, and knuckle curve — the first four for 17 plus times each. His effectiveness of his two seamer and cutter were particularly helpful, throwing the two seamer 24 times, 18 for strikes, and the cutter 18 times, 14 for strikes.
“Both of those pitches are working off the same angle and they both have late movement,” Martin said. “As a hitter, it makes it very difficult. When both of those pitches are sharp and they’re moving late, it’s tough.”
But it all would have been for nothing if not for Martin’s clutch hit.
“Right there I’m just trying to put the ball in play somehow,” Martin said.
Going into the game, Martin was hitting .376 with a 1.023 OPS with runners in scoring position. It’s a vast improvement from last year, when Martin hit .192 with a .572 OPS.
“You look at his numbers from last year, his first checkmark on what he needed to improve on was hitting with runners in scoring position,” Hurdle said. “It’s all about his approach, his stubbornness in the plate, giving up big swings and trying to make hard contact with the pitches hit.”
It’s this approach at the plate –not trying to do too much — which has allowed Martin to make the stark improvement.
“A lot of guys want to hit the great button and they lose good. Russell’s just stayed so consistent,” Hurdle said.
With the win, the Pirates moved to 84-71, 4.5 games ahead of the Brewers in the Wild Card. The Pirates playoff odds are now 99.9 percent, while the Brewers dropped to 0.1 percent. Their magic number for the playoffs is three.