Morris' struggles continue as Bucs fall

Morris' struggles continue as Bucs fall

PITTSBURGH -- Beleaguered Pirates starter Matt Morris was hoping to get back on track against the Phillies on Saturday night at PNC Park. It didn't happen for the veteran right-hander, as the Phillies cruised to an 8-4 victory.

Morris threw 49 pitches in a five-run first inning and lasted only 1 2/3 frames. He was tagged for six runs (three earned) and six hits. The right-hander took the loss, falling to 0-4.

It was the same story for Morris, who in his last two starts prior to this outing allowed 14 runs in 8 2/3 innings. He's pitched past the fifth just once this year.

"It was a tough outing," Pirates manager John Russell said. "We did kick a ball behind Morris and cost him another run, and the ball [right fielder Xavier] Nady missed was a tough play, but Morris' command is just not where it needs to be right now, and I think he knows it. He's leaving balls up and you get hit, especially against a team like the Phillies. It was a tough outing."

Morris acknowledged that the adjustments he has made between starts didn't work. He saw nothing positive in this start.

"Not really -- the decent pitches I threw were fouled off and fought hard," Morris said. "The pitches that were in the zone were hit hard. I might have to reevaluate again."

Russell would not speculate on Morris staying in the starting rotation.

"It's too early to say anything right now," Russell stated. "We're just going to see where we are and continue to see where he's at. To make that decision tonight is not fair."

Morris is a veteran leader on the club and his teammates have empathy for what he's going through.

"He's one of the best teammates I've ever had, and one of the hardest-working people I've ever been around," Bucs outfielder Nate McLouth said. "You always root for guys like that to do well."

Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick (2-2) hurled seven-plus innings and surrendered four runs (three earned) on seven hits.

The Phillies jumped on Morris in the first as slumping first baseman Ryan Howard crushed a towering two-run home run to center field. After a Pat Burrell single, Nady committed a two-base error on a drive by Geoff Jenkins, allowing Burrell to score. Eric Bruntlett continued the onslaught with an RBI single. Kendrick reached on an error by shortstop Brian Bixler, scoring Chris Coste and staking the Phillies to a 5-0 lead.

Philadelphia tacked on another run in the second on a RBI single by Jenkins that chased Morris.

McLouth snapped a 0-for-15 slump with a RBI single in the bottom of the third and belted a solo shot in the eighth. In the third, Freddy Sanchez hit a RBI double into the right-field corner, snapping a 0-for-11 hitless streak and cutting the Phillies' lead to 6-2.

"Obviously it's good to get a couple knocks," McLouth said. "I haven't been doing anything different and they weren't falling like they had been and it's nice to get a couple and get back on track."

Philadelphia struck again against reliever Phil Dumatrait on an RBI double by Jayson Werth in the top of the sixth. Pinch-hitter Pedro Feliz followed with an RBI double, upping the Phils' lead to 8-2.

The same scenario has been repeated often this year for the Pirates: a starter struggles early and the club has to try to rally from a big deficit.

"It is tough, especially the last couple nights it's been multiple runs," McLouth said. "Especially against a guy like Kendrick tonight who has a good sinker, it's tough to put up big innings against guys like that, because they constantly keep the ball low in the zone and are not susceptible to big innings."

George Von Benko is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.