By Nate Barnes
PITTSBURGH -- Cubs manager Dale Sveum knew the numbers when his team walked into PNC Park Friday. Those numbers, of course, being the differential between Charlie Morton's effectiveness against right-handed and left-handed hitters.
The Pirates starter entered his outing against Chicago having held right-handers to a .249 batting average and just a .611 on-base plus slugging percentage in 2013.
But lefties had hit .333 off Morton entering the game with an OPS of .878.
"That’s why we have a lot of left-handers in the lineup, to stay away from that sinker down-and-in that he does to right-handers so well," Sveum said pregame. "When you have a sinker-baller on the mound no matter what you do, you’re trying to get the ball up and out over the plate so you don’t keep pounding the ball into the ground."
The Cubs did a solid job of meeting their manager's expectations Friday, en route to a 5-4 victory.
"We got his pitch-count up and the left-handers did what they’re in the lineup for," Sveum said. "Bogusevic, a big two-run homer, Navi got a big hit off the wall over there."
Morton only recorded five ground-ball outs out of a possible 15 in the five innings he pitched, and the Cubs were able to strike on a two-run home run by Bogusevic in the fourth inning.
In Morton's injury-shortened season, 62 percent of balls in play have been ground balls.
Friday, just a third of the balls hit for outs were grounders and most of the balls to land for base hits (or beyond the wall, in Bogusevic's case) were hit hard to the outfield, including the single off the right field wall by Dioner Navarro.
Morton himself credited the job done by the Cubs hitters, who worked two walks off the Pirates’ starter and forced him to throw 93 pitches to grind out five innings.
“They swung the bat. They put a lot of good swings on the bats and they're professionals,” Morton said. “You don't make a good pitch, even when you do, a good hitter is going to hit it."
When Morton did not make good pitches, the Cubs capitalized.
“The ones that got up we took advantage of and that’s what you do with sinker-ballers,’ Sveum said. “When they get it up, it’s a little bit flat and we took advantage of those.”