Now that’s how you stave off the bully

Behind 5 1/3 shutout innings from starter Charlie Morton, the Pirates went from being the victim of bullying to the ones grabbing their opponents by the ankles and shaking out the loose change or pushing their faces in the dirt or whatever seems to be the modern torment.

Though the inversion of roles had less to do with Morton’s first-pitch drilling of Shin-Soo Choo above his right ankle and more to do with him keeping batted balls jammed in the dirt, the Bucs conquered the division rival, 4-0, and hopefully refocused conversation on performance — not petty plunkings.

Morton’s 7:2 GO/AO highlighted what was an overall crucially successful outing, one in which he also struck out two and allowed just three hits and no walks en route to his first win since May 12, 2012.

The possibility of the bad blood spilling over from last night — and past games — into tonight was thwarted after Reds starter Mat Latos didn’t throw at Morton to start the second inning.

Upon Choo’s leadoff hit-by-pitch, Latos perched at the top step of the dugout with a stern demeanor and hollered toward Morton.

After allowing a three-run first inning, though, Latos probably just wanted to take the easy out.

Starling Marte lead off the game by legging a double out into a triple, in what was a remarkable display of naturally gifted speed and stride. Russell Martin followed the three-bagger with an RBI single to third, and scored a run of his own after a bases-loaded single by Pedro Alvarez.

With the exception of Marte’s RBI single in the seventh, the Pirates didn’t do much hitting after the first, striking out a season-high 17 times (but also drawing six walks).

Instead, the Pirates shut down Cincy with smooth defensive plays and a dominating bullpen outing.

Gaby Sanchez had an over-the-shoulder basket catch in the third to get Devin Mesoraco; one batter later, Garrett Jones actually had a reasonably athletic, tumbling catch to retire Mat Latos; Jordy Mercer made a rangy throw to erase Zack Cozart in the fourth; and Martin threw out — and I mean absolutely gunned down — Choo at second base in the sixth, just before Morton was pulled from the game.

Though Morton had thrown just 61 pitches, Clint Hurdle opted for Tony Watson to get the last two outs of the inning against Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce. Watson allowed a double to Votto, struck out Phillips and got Bruce to ground out, then went out for the seventh and sat the Reds down in order. He had three strikeouts on the night.

Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli did their usual thing, combining for two innings, five punch outs and no hits or walks.

You can argue that either or both of Melancon and Grilli shouldn’t have appeared in a game that seemed to be an easy win for the Bucs, but I’m fine with their presences as long as it doesn’t mean Hurdle won’t use them later this series or next. (And anyway, it was cool to see Grilli accomplish a rare feat and make Votto look bad at the plate.)

The best part of this game, though, is that the beanball and headhunting talk stopped after the second inning. Like I said yesterday, a win is the best way to shut up the Reds and silence the bully talk and they perfected that approach tonight.

It’s great to get one win under the belt already in this series/road-trip, and the Bucs have their hottest starter, Jeff Locke (6-1, 2.19 ERA), going tomorrow against former-Pirate Bronson Arroyo (6-5, 3.27 ERA). First pitch is slated for 7:10 p.m.

By tyle23r

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