PITTSBURGH (AP) - Charlie Morton hasn't lost his confidence. The form he displayed a year ago, however, is another matter. And time may be running out to find it.
The Cincinnati Reds lit up the Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander in an 8-1 win on Tuesday night, scoring four runs in four innings as Morton (2-6) lost for the fifth time in his last six starts.
``I think some of it is pitch selection, but the majority of it was execution,' Morton said. ``I feel like I need to get back to where I'm in a groove and the ball is coming out decently when I throw it.'
It's not happening at the moment.
Morton enjoyed a breakout season last year, posting a career-high 10 wins and dominating the Reds. Morton went 3-0 with a 0.93 ERA in four starts against Cincinnati in 2011, including a five-hit shutout.
Those numbers are long gone. Morton lost for the fifth time in his last six starts and fell to Cincinnati for the second time in three weeks. The Reds tagged him for five runs in six innings during a loss May 6 and quickly jumped on Morton again.
Morton's ERA rose to 4.65 during his shortest outing of the season on a night where he didn't strike out a batter.
The Pirates may have some flexibility in their rotation with injured starter Jeff Karstens making his way back from a sore right shoulder, though manager Clint Hurdle shot down any speculation that it may be time to make a change.
``The one thing you always want to make sure is that guys are feeling what they need to feel, they're free and easy,' Hurdle said.
The Reds certainly felt that way following a nearly two-hour rain delay.
Jay Bruce had three hits, including a pair of doubles, and Todd Frazier drove in two runs to cap an eventful 24 hours for the third baseman. Frazier doubled and tripled in his first two at_bats hours after saving a Pittsburgh restaurant-goer from choking on a piece of steak by giving him the Heimlich maneuver.
``It was a monster piece, and the guy was very thankful,' Frazier said. ``The lady he was with was crying, and it was like surreal. Never done it before in my life.'
Back at work later on Tuesday, Frazier and the rest of his teammates made quick work of the Pirates and Morton.
Cincinnati took a 2-0 lead in the second behind back-to-back doubles by Bruce and Frazier, and extended it to 4-0 two innings later thanks to some lackadaisical Pittsburgh defense. Bruce led off with a double and Frazier followed one batter later with a shot to the gap in left-center field.
Pittsburgh left fielder Jose Tabata jogged after the ball as it rolled to the wall, where it was eventually run down by Andrew McCutchen, who fired a relay to shortstop Josh Harrison. Harrison tried to gun down Frazier at third but the ball sailed over the Pirates dugout and Frazier trotted home.
It was all the run support Homer Bailey (4-3) required while winning his third straight start and picking up his second career complete game. The Pirates only managed one extra-base hit - a two-out triple by McCutchen - and never threatened to move over .500 for the first time since the third game of the season.
Cincinnati went 7 for 14 with runners in scoring position and dominated.
``We spotted (Bailey) some runs early, and we kept adding on,' Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker said. ``A big thing tonight was Homer and the second thing was the fact that how we hit with runners in scoring position. This is the best night we've had in a while.'
The Reds, who were stopped cold by Pittsburgh's James McDonald on Monday following a 6-1 homestand that vaulted them into first-place, bounced back by flexing some muscle.
Cincinnati drilled five extra-base hits while continuing its offensive deluge. The Reds have scored at least six runs in five of their last 11 games. The Pirates, baseball's lowest scoring team, have reached that number just four times all season.
Bailey needed just 103 pitches - 77 for strikes - to subdue the Pirates. He grew stronger as the game wore on and didn't give up a hit over the final four innings.
``He's been getting progressively better every outing,' Baker said. ``He had great command of his fastball, and he threw some outstanding breaking balls and changeups and he minimized his pitches. He threw a great ballgame.'
NOTES: Pittsburgh C Rod Barajas caught his 1,000th major league game on Tuesday, third-most among active catchers behind A.J. Pierzynski and Ramon Hernandez ... The series concludes on Wednesday night when Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto (5-2, 2.53 ERA) faces Pittsburgh's A.J. Burnett (3-2, 4.19 ERA) ... Pirates rookie infielder Jordy Mercer, called up Tuesday afternoon, grounded out in his first major league at bat in the eighth.
The Associated Press News Service
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