Thursday, May 19, 2011

Charlie Morton: Ace, Stopper, All-Star?

Who would have thunk it? Charlie Morton: “Stopper.”

Even as recently as spring training, nobody would have thought Charlie Morton, of all people – Charlie Morton?! -- would step up and become the Pirates ace this year. Their Stopper: As in, stopping losing streaks, in this case a malodorous stinker of a six-game streak in which opponents had out-scored the Pirates, 38-15.

So, if the Pirates weren’t going to score much Wednesday evening, it seemed they would need one of their guys to pitch a shutout. And that’s exactly what Charlie Morton delivered at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati.

Charlie Morton, of all people, an afterthought who was barely clinging to a tenuous spot on the roster, let alone in the rotation, as recently as the end of spring training. Give him credit. He took hold of his last chance and wouldn’t let go. With help and guidance from manager Clint Hurdle and pitching coach Ray Searage, Morton appears to have salvaged his career; no, more than that, much more: Morton appears not only to have salvaged his career; but, in one year, he’s gone from near-oblivion/never-was/has-been to Emerging Ace, the team’s Stopper and one of the best pitchers in baseball. If the All-Star team were picked today, he’d be on it.

Wednesday night against a hot Reds team, Morton pitched seven smothering, scoreless innings with groundouts galore. He allowed only five hits all game, and from the second through the seventh innings, he allowed only one hit and three base runners. He threw only 105 pitches the entire game. This was the second time this season Morton has defeated the Reds (he beat them 6-1 on April 15), and in the two games, he’s pitched 18 innings and allowed only one run and 10 hits. And that’s a good-hitting team.

Charlie Morton. Who woulda thunk it?

R.I.P. Harmon Killebrew

Rest in Peace, Harmon Killebrew.

Now, there was a Slugger. A real cleanup hitter.

Harmon Killebrew dominated in an era of 10 teams per league, a higher pitcher's mound, great pitchers, pre-steroids, and pre-990s-expansion. By all accounts, he was a nice guy, humble, quiet and a good teammate. An all-around good guy. And a devastating slugger.