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.
|San Francisco Giants|
|June 11, 2013||Marco Scutaro||Day-to-Day||Left game - Left hand injury|
|June 09, 2013||Pablo Sandoval||15-Day DL||Strained left foot|
|May 28, 2013||Angel Pagan||15-Day DL||Strained right hamstring|
|May 26, 2013||Angel Pagan||Day-to-Day||Mild hamstring strain|
|May 21, 2013||Santiago Casilla||15-Day DL||Cyst on right knee|
|May 21, 2013||Ryan Vogelsong||60-Day DL||Fractured right hand - out 6-8 weeks|
|June 06, 2013||Jared Hughes||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|June 06, 2013||Wandy Rodriguez||15-Day DL||Left forearm tightness|
|June 03, 2013||Phil Irwin||60-Day DL||Right arm fatigue|
|June 03, 2013||Jeanmar Gomez||15-Day DL||Right forearm tightness|
|May 28, 2013||Jose Contreras||15-Day DL||Lower back inflammation|
|May 25, 2013||Jose Tabata||15-Day DL||Strained left oblique - out 3-4 weeks|
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Matt Cain 's mind drifted. He couldn't help it.
A year to the day after throwing the 22nd perfect game in baseball history, the San Francisco Giants ace didn't give up a hit through four innings on Thursday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates .
"I tried not to think about it but there was enough talk about it that I couldn't really tune out," Cain said.
A single by Pittsburgh's Garrett Jones leading off the bottom of the fifth rendered any discussion of Cain making history again moot, one of the few things that didn't go right for the Giants in a 10-0 romp.
Cain (5-3) struck out three and walked two over 6 2-3 innings.
"He had good command of all his pitches," San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's in a good place right now with his delivery and command. I like where he's at."
Hunter Pence hit his 11th homer of the season, while Buster Posey , Gregor Blanco and Joaquin Arias had three hits apiece for San Francisco, which avoided a sweep by sending the Pirates to their worst loss of the year.
Not bad for a team missing injured stars Pablo Sandoval , Marco Scutaro and Angel Pagan , all of whom are on the disabled list.
"It's a great sign," Bochy said. "We're missing three big bats. You hope guys pick it up and they have the last couple of games. Blanco had a big game. Really, a lot of guys had big games."
Even if it wasn't required on a night Cain seemed to move past the inconsistent play that's dogged him over the first two months of the season.
The three-time All-Star has run hot and cold this season, getting off to a horrific start in April before going 4-0 in May. The Giants lost both of his starts this month, scoring all of one run in the process.
Given a healthy dose of support, Cain didn't let it go to waste.
"I am throwing the ball a whole lot better," he said. "I'm trying to eliminate that big inning. I had done a good job of that for some years now but I've kind of had trouble with it this year. It's a matter of putting it in the past and getting guys out."
San Francisco's outburst spoiled the return of Pittsburgh starter Charlie Morton (0-1), who was celebrating an anniversary of his own. The righthander underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on June 14, 2012. Just short of a year later, he surrendered four runs on seven hits, striking out five and walking one. The right-hander also hit three batters while making his first major league start in 381 days.
"I wish it had gone better but I think I can take quite a few positives," Morton said.
The Giants didn't knock Morton around so much as chip away. San Francisco touched Morton for a run in each of the first two innings then added two more in the fifth before breaking things open with five runs in the sixth against reliever Mike Zagurski .
The romp was a welcome change for the defending World Series champions, who have struggled on the road. San Francisco came in just 4-12 in its last 16 games away from AT&T Park but had little trouble with Cain returning to form.
Cain tossed a one-hitter against the Pirates last season, the lone mistake being a fastball in the sixth inning that McDonald turned into a single. Two months later he retired all 27 batters he faced against the overmatched Astros.
He didn't overwhelm Pittsburgh this time, instead letting his defense do most of the work. Cain wasted little time between pitches and the Pirates could never seem to get comfortable.
"We saw the good Matt Cain tonight," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
San Francisco certainly looked at ease, pushing the lead to 4-0 during a weird fifth inning. Zagurski hit Brandon Crawford with one out and Posey smacked a ground-rule double to the gap in left-center. Crawford would have easily scored if the ball hadn't hopped over the fence.
Things evened out when Pence hit a dribbler that turned into a rundown between third and home. Crawford smacked into Pittsburgh third baseman Pedro Alvarez during the chase, with home plate umpire Tim McClellan awarding Crawford home plate after ruling Alvarez impeded Crawford's path.
Andres Torres hit a sacrifice fly, but a potentially big inning came undone when a liner by Arias went right at Pence standing off second base. The San Francisco outfielder dove forward to avoid the ball only to have it deflect off his helmet.
Pence earned a bit of revenge the next inning when he smoked a 3-run homer off Zagurski and the rout was on.
NOTES: Scutaro is still in considerable pain after the pinky finger in his left hand was drilled by a pitch on Tuesday. Bochy said there is considerable swelling and isn't sure when Scutaro will play again ... The Giants begin a three-game series in Atlanta on Friday. Madison Bumgarner (5-4, 3.58) faces Atlanta's Kris Medlen (3-6, 2.87) ... San Francisco's Nick Noonan appeared to have his first major league home run in the ninth inning when he hit a ball to right-center. The call was overturned when replay showed the ball hit the top of the fence but did not go over.