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October 6, 2013

NLDS Notebook: Pressure falls on Morton today

PITTSBURGH — A year ago at this time Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton was just beginning to throw again after having Tommy John surgery on his elbow.

Today, nothing less than a spot in the National League championship series rests on that surgically repaired right arm.

Morton will take to the mound at PNC Park today to face St. Louis in Game 4 of the National League division series, which the Pirates lead 2-1. Win today and the Pirates will take their first full postseason series since 1979.

Not that Morton is putting too much pressure on himself. According to him, every time he steps on the field is important.

“I’m not going to go out there and say a game in mid-June doesn’t mean anything to me or doesn’t mean as much,” he said before Game 3, which the Pirates won 5-3 on Sunday. “A lot rides on every game we play in. Our careers depend on it. We need to be consistent. Besides that, yeah, tomorrow’s game is going to be important regardless.”

Morton probably isn’t the guy that most Pirates fans want on the mound in an elimination game with St. Louis. He is 2-9 with a 6.52 ERA in 14 career starts against the Cardinals, including an 0-6 record in his past eight starts against them.

He lasted just 1 2⁄3 innings the last time he faced them, giving up five runs – all earned – on six hits and two walks before leaving the game with a foot injury.

Morton said he isn’t trying to over-analyze why he has struggled against St. Louis, but instead plans to try to concentrate on what has worked for him against other teams.

“Anybody would like to believe that from failure you take something from it,” Morton said. “And I think that’s true with anybody, whether it’s a season or it’s a span of starts or if it’s one start. So there are things that I’m going to take from it and I’m going to learn from, but I’m not going to try to reinvent the wheel because I had a couple of bad games against them.”

He also gave up five earned runs in six innings in the Pirates’ 13-0 loss to St. Louis on Aug. 1. After returning from that rough outing, he was solid down the stretch for the Pirates, going 4-1 with a 2.67 ERA in his final 11 starts.

“We give respect to all these guys and realize at any night any pitcher can stop a good offense,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “But we put together a game plan. We take our successes and failures and learn from them, from each individual pitcher, and try to put a plan together to give us success for the next time.”

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