LAKELAND, Fla. – Charlie Morton allowed one hit in three scoreless innings, helping the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 5-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers Tuesday.
Morton did not strike out a batter, but he kept Detroit off the bases during his short stint, aside from Don Kelly’s second-inning double.
“I made some decent pitches and got lucky a few times,” Morton said. “They put some really good swings on the ball and I was fortunate it went right at somebody.”
Kelly had two hits for the Tigers, and Austin Jackson hit a two-run homer in the fourth for Detroit’s runs.
Pittsburgh scored three times in the third off Rick Porcello. Jaff Decker brought a run home with a bunt single, Gregory Polanco hit an RBI double and Pedro Alvarez added a run-scoring groundout.
Pirates: Morton went 7-4 with a 3.26 ERA in 20 starts last year, and he’s hoping to build on that in 2014. He hasn’t allowed a run this spring, and the first four Detroit outs Tuesday came on groundballs.
Morton said it’s still too early for him to worry much about the game situation when he’s pitching.
“I threw a couple more offspeed pitches for strikes than last time,” Morton said. “I think in a start or two, it will be, ‘All right, now who’s up there? What are they trying to do? What am I trying to do against them?”’
Tigers: Porcello allowed three runs and five hits in three innings. Pittsburgh did most of the damage in the third after Josh Harrison led off the inning with a double.
“I know in the second inning I fell behind some guys, and the third inning,” Porcello said. “Fastball feels real good, breaking ball feels pretty good. Changeup’s a little flat right now, today especially, but other than that, it felt pretty good.”
Play at the plate
Detroit’s Hernan Perez was thrown out at home on a close play in the fifth. Catcher Chris Stewart took the throw from Decker, the right fielder, and applied the tag.
Baseball adopted a rule this year limiting home plate collisions, allowing them if the catcher has the ball and is blocking the runner’s direct path to home plate, and if the catcher goes into the basepath to field a throw to the plate.
That didn’t happen in this case, and there was no real contact between the players, aside from the tag.
“I’m never one to block the plate,” Stewart said. “Fortunately the new rule didn’t really have an effect on me.”
Joe Nathan, Detroit’s new closer, retired the side in order in the fifth. He has not allowed a baserunner in three appearances this spring.
Bruce Rondon had a shakier outing for the Tigers, allowing a run and two hits in the ninth. He did strike out three, but one of those hitters reached on a wild pitch.
Jackson goes deep
It’s only spring training, but Jackson is off to a torrid start for the Tigers, going 8 of 13 with seven RBIs so far. Jackson slumped so badly during last year’s postseason that he was dropped out of the leadoff spot. It’s not clear where he’ll hit this season, but he’s hoping to avoid overthinking his approach.
“He’s hit the ball well all spring,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “Let’s hope he continues to stay hot for six and a half more months.”