It's been just over one year since Charlie Morton last pitched in the majors.Morton takes the mound opposite Matt Cain as the Pirates host the Giants in Thursday night's finale.After taking Tuesday's opener 8-2 behind an impressive effort from prized pitching prospect Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh's bats led the way Wednesday in a 12-8 victory. Starling Marte, Jordy Mercer, Andrew McCutchen and Gaby Sanchez -- the top four hitters in the batting order -- went a combined 13 for 19 with eight runs while Neil Walker added a homer and three RBIs. Alex Presley also went deep."The top of the order was really special, the runs, the hits," said manager Clint Hurdle, whose club posted its most runs and hits (18) this season. "They just kept fueling us from the first inning through the eighth."Seeking a fifth consecutive win in the series and its first sweep of San Francisco since May 6-8, 2008, the Pirates (39-26) turn to Morton. After undergoing Tommy John surgery last June 14, Morton is looking forward to getting back on the field."You can't escape emotion," he told MLB's official website. "I'm going to be nervous. I'm going to be excited, emotions that anyone would feel."The right-hander, who's starting in place of the injured Wandy Rodriguez, allowed two runs and six hits over 6 1/3 innings during Saturday's rehab start with Triple-A Indianapolis.Asked if Thursday is a spot start for Morton, Hurdle replied, "I don't know. We'll just figure out as we go. I don't need to make those decisions now for a group. I think we need to give Charlie an opportunity to go pitch and that will help us make our decision."Morton is 1-0 with a 1.89 ERA in his last three starts against the Giants (33-31), who have dropped 10 of 13 on the road. After placing All-Star third baseman Pablo Sandoval (strained left foot) on the disabled list Tuesday, San Francisco was also without second baseman Marco Scutaro on Wednesday. Scutaro, dealing with an injury to his pinkie finger after getting hit by a pitch Tuesday, is out indefinitely.Manager Bruce Bochy, though, should be back after serving a one-game suspension. He was ejected and later reprimanded after major league baseball said reliever George Kontos intentionally hit McCutchen with a pitch after both benches had been warned Tuesday.The Giants will try to bounce back behind Cain (4-3, 5.09 ERA), who's gone 4-1 over his last seven starts. The right-hander has allowed one or two runs in five of those outings and a combined 13 in the other two."You can't get too ahead of yourself," he said.Cain had compiled an 8.88 ERA over a four-start road stretch before giving up a run and four hits over seven-plus innings Friday in a 3-1 loss at Arizona. He left with a 1-0 lead before Jeremy Affeldt surrendered a three-run homer."Cain threw really well," Affeldt said. "He didn't deserve that."Cain has been nearly untouchable over five starts against Pittsburgh since 2009, going 2-0 with a 1.46 ERA. He struck out 11 in a one-hitter during his last matchup in the series, a 5-0 victory April 13, 2012.Cain has made things especially difficult on Clint Barmes and McCutchen, who are a combined 2 for 31 against him. Sanchez has also struggled, going 2 for 14.
Matt Cain is one of nine starters in the National League to have allowed a line drive on more than 20 percent of the balls put in play against his slider (min. 200 sliders thrown). A league-best 25 percent of the balls the Pirates have put in play against sliders have been line drives.