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Pirates win second straight over Phillies

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Andrew McCutchen and Lyle Overbay each had three hits, and Charlie Morton continued his early season excellence as the Pirates won their second-straight over the Philadelphia Phillies 6-3 Saturday night at PNC Park.

You'd have to forgive Charlie Morton if he forgot which side of the Keystone State he was pitching in Saturday night. As Morton took the mound in front of a crowd of 39,441 at PNC Park -- the largest ever for a baseball game at the venue -- chants of "Let's Go Phillies!" drowned out cheers for the home team.

Morton silenced the sea of red in the stands, however, giving Pittsburgh's taxed bullpen a needed respite by pitching seven strong innings and allowing just two runs. Andrew McCutchen and Lyle Overbay each went 3-for-4 at the plate and Brandon Wood hit his first home run of the season as the Pirates (28-29) banged out 10 hits -- seven of them for extra bases -- in a 6-3 victory over the Phillies (34-24).

"That was the most energized crowd that I've ever pitched in front of," Morton said. "There was a lot of hostility towards us, a lot of Philly fans. It was an unbelievable atmosphere. It was awesome."

Morton (6-2) struck out five Phillies and walked two in seven frames, allowing six hits while inducing 12 ground ball outs. With the stellar outing, he established a new career high in wins.

"I thought he was able to pitch to both sides of the plate to the left-handers," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "The slow breaking ball came into play. He threw some of those split-changes. The two-seamer had some action, and then the four-seamer up top."

Philly's lefty batters went 5-for-17 versus Morton on Saturday, but Morton did get Ryan Howard to ground into a key fifth-inning double play with a two-run lead and the Phillies threatening with runners on the corners.

"Man, that was a big-time outing for him," Hurdle said. "A big crowd, piggybacking the win we had yesterday."

"You put the second deck on the stadium and pack 38,000 people in it, it can give you an adrenaline boost -- there's no doubt. And when bigger situations, those game-changing situations come up... it just works. I've always loved it and there's no player that doesn't love it, especially when you're home. It does make a difference."

The Phillies touched up Morton in the top of the first inning. Lead-off hitter Jimmy Rollins fouled a slider off his right knee and doubled over in pain, but he hooked a change-up inside the right field line later in the at-bat for a double. Placido Polanco hit a ground ball up the middle that Neil Walker got a glove on. The Bucs' second baseman had no play, however, as his momentum sent him sprawling into the grass.

With runners on first and third, Morton struck out Chase Utley on three pitches. He then got Howard to hit a first-pitch fastball to Walker, who flipped to Cedeno to start a 4-6-3 double play. But Cedeno's throw to Overbay sailed wide of the bag as Polanco slid in hard at second base. Rollins jogged home with the game's first run.

Rollins was forced to leave the game in the third inning with a right patella contusion, however. Wilson Valdez replaced him at shortstop.

Given a one-game reprieve between battles with Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay, the Pirates gladly took their hacks against Kyle Kendrick.

The Pirates captured the lead in the bottom half of the first inning. Jose Tabata chopped a ground ball into shallow left field to lead off the game for the Pirates, stretching a single into a double in the process. Xavier Paul sacrificed Tabata to third, and Tabata then dashed home on a ground ball down the third base line that McCutchen beat out for an infield single.

Walker flied out for the second out of the inning, and it appeared that Kendrick escaped further damage when Overbay pulled a changeup to Howard in front of first base. Howard snared it, stepped on the bag and trotted off the field, but the initial out call was reversed -- the umpires determined Overbay's grounder was foul.

Given a second chance, Overbay ripped a sinker off the Clemente Wall for a double later in the at-bat. McCutchen, who was running on the pitch, motored home to give the Pirates a 2-1 lead.

"To be honest, I thought [the ground ball down the line] was fair," Overbay said. "But I don't have to make the call. That changed the whole at-bat.'

Philadelphia knotted the game in the fourth, as Shane Victorino led off with a single, advanced to third base on a Raul Ibanez single and scored on a Domonic Brown ground out. Pittsburgh put another two-spot on the board against Kendrick in the fourth inning, though, thanks to shoddy fielding and poor pitch location by the Phillies.

Left fielder Ibanez turned what should have been an Overbay single into a triple to begin the frame. Overbay hit a Kendrick cutter the opposite way that dropped in front of Ibanez, who stumbled and allowed the ball to skip over his head and roll to the warning track.

"I only try to do it a couple times a year," Overbay said while smiling. "I don't want to show off, because then I don't have anything left for the second half."

A Chris Snyder groundout to first brought Overbay home.

Brandon Wood, drawing his first start at third base since Monday, then turned on a sinker that Kendrick left high in the zone on the seventh pitch of the at-bat. Wood's shot landed just out of the reach of Ibanez in the first row of the left-field bleachers, giving the former Angel his first homer of the season and putting the Pirates up 4-2.

Kendrick (3-4) lasted five innings, getting lashed for eight hits and four earned runs while not registering a strikeout or a walk.

The Pirates added an insurance run in both the seventh and eighth innings against Philadelphia's bullpen. Matt Diaz, pinch-hitting for Morton, drew a walk off J.C. Romero. Romero seemingly had Diaz caught flat-footed off first base, but Howard's errant throw to second base saved Diaz from getting picked off. While Romero retired Tabata and Paul, McCutchen scorched a high changeup for an RBI double past a diving Polanco.

In the eighth, a Valdez error allowed Wood to reach second base on a fielder's choice. Wood advanced to third on a Cedeno ground out and scored on a Danys Baez wild pitch.

Philadelphia loaded the bases in the top of the ninth against Joel Hanrahan, with the crowd standing and a cacophony of Phillies and Pirates chants filling the air. Polanco singled to center field to plate Ibanez, prompting pitching coach Ray Searage to visit Hanrahan on the mound.

"Ray was just trying to calm me down," Hanrahan said. "Obviously that was the most pitches [29 total] that I've thrown all year, so he was just trying to give me a break and make sure I was rested. He didn't even tell me what to throw."

Hanrahan already knew what to throw. With the game on the line, he dialed up his fastball.

Utley, representing the winning run, stepped to the plate. Hanrahan fired a 98 MPH fastball that caught the outside part of the plate. Utley fouled off a 99 MPH fastball, then took a 98 MPH heater high and outside.

Hanrahan peppered another 98 MPH pitch off the plate. Utley swung and flied out to Tabata in left field, giving the Pirates a series victory against the N.L. East-leading Phillies.

"That's a huge series to win right there," Hanrahan said. "We've got a chance to come out tomorrow for a sweep. I don't care if I give up a run. We got the win, and that's all that matters. It made it fun for however many fans were here. I don't know if Hurdle and them enjoyed it too much," he said with a grin.

"This is a fun club to watch," Hurdle said. "We have the ability to break your heart one night, and then come back and make you jump up and down the next."

"I think we've made a statement with what we've done as a whole this year," Morton said. "Obviously we're not five, six, seven games over .500 or something, but we're playing really good baseball. It's a great contrast from what was happening last year."

Charlie Morton has lasted at least six innings in nine of his eleven starts during the 2011 season. He's giving the bullpen a break by being economical with his pitches. Morton has thrown an average of 14.4 pitches per inning this season, fifth-lowest among National League starting pitchers qualified for the ERA title.

Perhaps the Phillies' struggles against Charlie Morton shouldn't have come as a surprise -- Philly hasn't hit well this season against pitchers who keep the ball down.

The Phillies entered Saturday night's game against Morton batting a collective .246 with a .303 on-base percentage and a .357 slugging percentage versus pitchers that Baseball-Reference defines as "Ground Ball Pitchers" -- those who rank in the bottom third of the league in the ratio of fly ball outs recorded to ground ball outs. Philly's .660 OPS against ground ball hurlers ranks 12th in the 16-team National League.

First baseman/outfielder Ross Gload was placed on the paternity list prior to Saturday night's game. Outfielder John Mayberry Jr. was recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to fill the open roster spot.

RHP Roy Halladay (7-3, 2.56 ERA) faces RHP James McDonald (3-3, 4.85 ERA) on Sunday at 1:35 p.m. After a disastrous April (15/16 K/BB ratio, 7.66 ERA in 24.2 innings pitched), McDonald will look to carry over his stellar pitching in May (35/10 K/BB ratio, 2.86 ERA in 34.2 IP). He'll need to be nearly perfect to best Halladay, who leads all major league starters in strikeout-to-walk ratio (7.0). Doc has already thrown a major league-best four complete games in 2011, matching the Pirates' team total all by himself.

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