With the Pittsburgh Pirates pitching faltering, as Monday night's 11-10 extra inning loss exemplified, the team is searching for answers. The offense is scoring at a similar rate as the 2013 team, yet the Pirates rotation has not been able to put together any stretch of consistent starts.
The Pirates rank 27th in the Major Leagues with a 4.59 ERA from the starting rotation. Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole and Edinson Volquez have all experienced their issues, although the signs point towards Liriano improving as the weather warms as well as Cole improving his strikeout totals once he gets into the meat of the schedule.
Volquez pitched phenomenally up until his past two starts, where he has allowed 12 earned runs and has watched his ERA bump up over the 4.00 threshold.
However, the key to the rotation improving rests with Tuesday's starter, Charlie Morton. Morton is currently 0-4 with a 4.21 ERA, certainly not the worst of the Pirates starters, but not where Morton should be based off of his 2013 success. The root of Morton's issues have to do with control, as he has walked 12 over his past four starts while striking out just 14. He has been the victim of some bad luck as well, with hitters boasting a .316 average on balls in play, a product of Morton trying to get batters to hit ground balls. Unfortunately for him, these ground balls have been finding hole after hole in the infield.
Morton had his last start disrupted by a rain delay in Baltimore, and saw a great start fall apart when he reentered the game. If Morton can begin to turn his season around, starting with his start against San Francisco tonight, the Pirates rotation will follow suit. If not, it is going to be a long summer on the banks of the Allegheny.
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