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PIT@BAL: Morton fields grounder, starts double play

Only two years after winning the World Series with a team that ranked dead last in the Major Leagues in home runs, the San Francisco Giants have been flexing a different identity. They have been living by the long ball, but that could be tough way to make a living in Tuesday night's second game of the series with the Pirates.

The Giants have shown more early-season power than in four decades, and their homer-fueled success -- the National League West leaders are only 5-4 when they do not homer -- will get a stern test against Pittsburgh right-hander Charlie Morton. The sinkerballer is difficult to take out of the park, having allowed only four home runs in his last 19 starts.

Morton will be opposed by Tim Hudson, and the two righties have an interesting bit of common history. They were both in Atlanta's rotation in 2008, and made consecutive starts once, Morton on July 22 and Hudson on July 23. That turned out to be Hudson's final start before being shut down with elbow pain and having Tommy John surgery.

The 2014 Hudson is pitching as well as he ever has.

"I've been locating, being able to pound the strike zone and just challenge guys throughout the game," Hudson said. "I think it's been very helpful that the guys have done a really good job of scoring some runs for me early in the game, to where I can be a lot more aggressive in the strike zone and challenge guys and it's translated into some quality starts."

A trio of G-men already have at least seven homers, something San Francisco was last able to boast 31 games into a season in 1970. Before Mike Morse (eight homers), Brandon Belt (eight) and Buster Posey (seven), it was Willie McCovey, Bobby Bonds and Dick Dietz (seven each).

It makes the Giants tougher to handle because "they've always been built on pitching and defense. Now they've gotten out of the blocks well offensively," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle.

Hurdle, however, advocates that most home runs are thrown, not hit.

"All you've got to do, at least we do, is look at the home runs [the Giants have] hit -- at the quality and location of the pitches," Hurdle said. "You've got to make good pitches. Every hitter has a hot zone. Stay out of it."

Giants: 20-game winner in bullpen?
Of course not. But reliever Jean Machi earned his team-leading fifth win in Monday night's 13-inning game. He has more wins in 17 outings this season than he had in his first 59 big league appearances.

"I'm healthy, and [manager Bruce] Bochy has been bringing me into games whenever it's tied or we're one run behind," Machi said. "And the team has been able to come back to give me the wins."

Pirates: For starters, W's still missing
When the Giants erased all of Jeff Locke's 8-2 sixth-inning lead on Monday, it kept Pirates starters at three wins through the season's first 32 games, an amazingly low number.

Pittsburgh general manager Neal Huntington wouldn't totally dismiss wins as an indicator of starters' performances -- as many argue -- but conceded they are not the first thing he looks at when evaluating pitchers.

"If a pitcher is on a winning team and not getting wins, you have to understand why," Huntington said. "If he's on a losing team and getting wins, that's a very big positive. It's not the first thing you look at. In an era of starters going five to seven innings, if you don't score early, it's tough to get a win."

Worth noting
• Prior to Monday night's game -- when they scored all 11 of their runs without the benefit of a home run -- the Giants had homered 21 times in their last 11 games, and tallied eight of their nine runs in a three-game sweep over the Braves on home runs.

• Andrew McCutchen (4-for-7 Monday night) is 22-for-46 in his last 11 games against San Francisco. Comments