Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Back End of Bullpen Remains as Solid as Ever

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Back End of Bullpen Remains as Solid as Ever

Article excerpt

Charlie Morton is like most starting pitchers. He wants to finish his work. He wasn't especially thrilled about leaving the game Monday night against the Miami Marlins after seven innings. In his first start since Sept. 16, he had thrown just 87 pitches and was cruising toward a 4-2 win at PNC Park, the Pirates' fourth in a row. But Morton took great comfort from knowing he was giving the ball to Tony Watson in the eighth inning and that Mark Melancon would get it in the ninth. The back end of the team's bullpen has been terrific. If the Pirates are leading after seven innings or even six with Jared Hughes out there, you have to like their chances of winning.

"I have complete trust and confidence in those guys," Morton said. "I think it was the right call. There's nobody better."

That last part might be a bit of a stretch. But not by much.

"Both know how to pitch and they've got weapons," manager Clint Hurdle said of Watson and Melancon. "When you've got guys like that to close things down, it shortens the game. It makes it easier for everybody."

Watson needed just nine pitches to get three outs in the eighth inning, although he allowed a broken-bat single to Marcell Ozuna and nearly allowed a home run to $325 million man Giancarlo Stanton. Melancon, despite feeling "weak" after a 24-hour bug Sunday and not being a typical hard-throwing closer, needed 13 pitches to get through a 1-2-3 ninth for his 11th save in 12 chances.

"That last pitch he threw [to Christian Yelich] to end the game was just nasty," an appreciative Hughes said. "A backdoor cutter. Unhittable."

Translation:

Melancon doesn't have to throw 100 mph like the Cincinnati Reds' Aroldis Chapman to be effective.

"Velocity is just one of so many different tools that you have to get guys out," Melancon said. "It's nice because it's on every stadium - the mph is out there - and everybody knows what that means, so they get excited about it. But it's not everything."

Yelich can attest to that.

"That pitch must have moved this much," Hughes said, holding his hands a foot-and-a-half apart.

Much was made of Melancon's drop in velocity from 93 mph last season to 88 early in this season after he allowed three runs in a win against the Detroit Tigers April 13 and three more in a blown- save loss to the Chicago Cubs April 21. …

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