Pirates reclaim NL Central lead, two wins away from first winning season since 1992

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Behind another strong start from Charlie Morton and a three-run home run from Neil Walker, the Pirates defeated the Brewers 5-2 at Miller Park this afternoon. The Cardinals lost to the Reds earlier in the day, which means that the Pirates now have a one-game lead in the National League Central.

Morton allowed two runs – one earned — over seven innings in the victory, striking out six and walking two. The 29-year-old hasn’t received much attention, but he has been very effective since returning from Tommy John surgery in June, posting a 3.00 ERA and 63/23 K/BB ratio in 90 innings over 15 starts. He has thrown at least seven innings in three out of his last four outings.

With today’s win, the Pirates now sit at 80-57 on the season. They only need two more wins for their first winning season since 1992. While that will be an important benchmark for the franchise, they have bigger goals in mind at this point.

Shohei Ohtani no longer facing Masahiro Tanaka on Sunday at Yankee Stadium

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Shohei Ohtani has essentially become the Angels’ designated Sunday starting pitcher, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia announced Thursday morning that the 23-year-old two-way Japanese star will be skipped in the rotation this weekend at Yankee Stadium for “workload management” purposes.

Ohtani is fine to continue hitting, so there’s no sense of any physical ailment.

This decision will rob us — and the Japanese media — of a showdown between Ohtani and countrymate Masahiro Tanaka. And for that we are rather devastated, but you can understand the Angels’ concerns about overuse.

Ohtani has registered a 3.35 ERA, 1.066 WHIP, and 52/14 K/BB ratio through his first 40 1/3 innings (seven starts) as a major league pitcher and he’s slashing .308/.364/.582 with six home runs and 19 RBI in 26 games as a part-time DH.