PITTSBURGH (CBSMiami/AP) – The Miami Marlins finally got their new manager a couple of wins over the weekend but they'll face a tough challenge on Monday night.
The Pittsburgh Pirates' pitching staff turned in an impressive weekend, and their next man in line has more at stake than continuing the club's recent form.
Charlie Morton makes his season debut Monday night trying to prove he belongs in the rotation after a disquieting spring as the Pirates conclude an eight-game homestand with three against Miami.
Morton has been on the disabled list all season after spring training struggles followed offseason hip surgery. The right-hander made three rehab starts, going 2-1 with a 1.33 ERA with Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis. He struck out 22 and walked six over 20 1-3 innings.
He last pitched with the big league club on April 4, surrendering five runs and six hits with five walks in 1 2-3 innings of his final spring game against Philadelphia.
The right-hander replaces Vance Worley in the rotation, and he's probably pleased the debut is coming at home. Over the past two seasons, Morton was 6-6 with a 2.59 ERA in 21 starts at PNC Park and 7-10 with a 4.34 in 25 road starts.
He's been strong regardless of location against Miami in that time, going 3-0 with a 2.77 ERA in four starts, though Giancarlo Stanton is 7 for 15 lifetime against him.
The Pirates (21-22) completed a three-game sweep of the New York Mets with Sunday's 9-1 victory, surrendering four runs in the series and putting themselves in position to get back to .500 after dropping six of seven.
They've had three straight starters strikeout at least 10 batters for the first time since 1969, but a fourth, which would be an MLB first dating to 1914, seems unlikely considering Morton has done it once in 134 starts.
Pittsburgh also got it together offensively, scoring 21 runs for its top production in any series this season, including four-game sets.
"We needed this weekend. We needed to play some ball," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle told MLB's official website. "We played good team baseball this weekend. Everyone threw something in."
Josh Harrison is batting .468 on an 11-game hitting streak and was 10 for 22 against the Marlins last season. More importantly for Pittsburgh, Andrew McCutchen is as hot as he's been this year, going 9 for 15 with three homers and two doubles in four games. Since the start of 2012, he's batting .438 against Miami - his best mark against any NL team.
The Marlins (18-27) are also hinting at getting back on their feet, though their recent struggles were far more substantial with 11 losses in 12 games. That was before consecutive wins to conclude a three-game series with Baltimore.
Sunday's 5-2 victory came despite Stanton going 0 for 3 and dipping to 3 for 30 in his last eight. Martin Prado went 2 for 4 with a home run and has a nine-game hitting streak against the Pirates.
Dan Jennings improved to 2-5 since taking over managerial duties.
"Wins are like doughnuts," Jennings said. "You like them so much you want to keep eating them."
David Phelps will try to continue feeding his boss. Phelps (2-1, 3.21 ERA) is coming off his worst start after allowing four runs and five hits with three walks in five innings in Wednesday's 6-1 home loss to Arizona. The right-hander had gone his first six starts with a 1.75 ERA. Most of his success has come on the road, where he's 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA in four starts.
His only start against Pittsburgh went better, limiting it to five hits in five scoreless innings of a victory with the New York Yankees last May.
Dating to 2012, the Pirates have won 12 of 17 in the series, including eight of nine in Pittsburgh.
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