PITTSBURGH (AP) - For one night, Charlie Morton looked like his old self.
That wasn't necessarily a good thing for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Morton, one of the pleasant surprises this year for the pleasantly surprising Pirates, reverted to his 2010 form on Monday against the Baltimore Orioles in an 8-3 loss.
The 27-year-old right-hander gave up seven runs - six earned - in two innings, struggling through 55 pitches in his worst start of the season.
``The biggest thing for me is not to push the panic button,' Morton said. ``I've got to stay positive and get back to doing what I was.'
Morton fell to 2-2 this month with an ERA of 8.50, numbers that are reminiscent of a miserable 2010 in which he went 2-12 with a 7.57 ERA.
Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle blamed Morton's woes on a heavy workload and hinted he might have Morton (7-4) skip his next start, scheduled for this weekend against the streaking Boston Red Sox.
``I think it's a stamina issue that he's trying to fight through,' Hurdle said. ``That has caused him to elevate the ball much more than he was earlier this season.'
Maybe, but Morton's troubles began well before his pitch count soared. Baltimore started the game with four straight hits and opened up a 5-0 lead as the Orioles had little trouble doing whatever they wanted to Morton's sinker.
``(Earlier in the year) I was basically throwing the ball down in the zone and getting them to hit groundballs because my pitches had so much life,' Morton said. ``Now those balls are being hit. I've been a thrower and I need to become a pitcher.'
Baltimore Orioles pitcher Jake Arrieta wasn't much better than Morton, but then again he had the benefit of an offense that seems to spring to life when he's on the hill.
Arrieta (9-4) moved into a tie for the American League lead in wins as Baltimore's bats again picked him up.
The Orioles are averaging 6.5 runs when Arrieta starts, a number they topped in the second inning while chasing Morton.
``I really don't know what it is, the team, they find a way to put runs on the board when I'm on the mound,' Arrieta said. ``It's a good feeling for me. I'm not going to argue with it.'
Nick Markakis added three hits to extend his hitting streak to 11 games for the Orioles.
And for a night anyway, Arrieta got in on the act. He collected his first major league hit, a bloop single to shallow right field that scored Mark Reynolds to cap Baltimore's five-run first inning.
``I got an at-bat in the first, something I really didn't expect to do,' Arrieta said. ``It was a fun game to be a part of.'
The hit helped take some of the pressure off on a night when Arrieta was hardly dominant. He gave up three runs in five innings on a sticky night in which he labored through 87 pitches.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter called Arrieta's performance ``so-so,' yet it was enough to lift him into a five-way tie with for the AL lead in victories. The rest of the list includes some of the top pitchers in the game, including Detroit's Justin Verlander and New York's CC Sabathia.
Though his ERA is a pedestrian 4.50, Arrieta is more concerned with the scoreboard at the end of the night.
``It's a good feeling, being on top of the board with some of the big names around the league,' he said. ``I'd like to stay on pace with them. I feel like I have the stuff and ability.'
And apparently, the offense.
Baltimore has scored at least seven runs 11 times this season, and Arrieta has started seven of those games.
Pittsburgh appeared to be on the verge of a breakthrough last week, ripping off four straight wins to climb two games above .500 this late in the season for the first time in 12 years.
Four losses have followed, all to American League teams that have found a way to quiet Pittsburgh's bats. The Pirates have managed just seven runs during the slide, their longest since dropping six straight from May 10-16.
Hurdle thought he saw better at_bats by his team, if not better results.
``We squared up on some balls (and) we didn't chase as much,' Hurdle said. ``But I can't sugarcoat it. We only had five hits.'
NOTES: Pittsburgh started Garrett Jones at first base for slumping Lyle Overbay, who could be sitting for a while. Hurdle indicated Jones will play first base for the remainder of the Baltimore series to give Overbay some time to work on his swing. The 34-year-old veteran is batting .228 and is 3 for 26 in his last eight games. ... The Pirates will honor their 1971 World Series championship team on Tuesday night by wearing throwback uniforms.
The Associated Press News Service
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