(Sports Network) - Pirates starter Charlie Morton has heard all season long of the comparisons between himself and Phillies ace Roy Halladay. Tonight, he gets a first-hand look at the real thing when the two square off in the opener of a three-game series between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia at Citizens Bank Park.
Morton's future in baseball seemed bleak after he went 2-12 with a 7.57 earned run average in 17 starts a season ago with the Pirates, but he has turned things around considerably in 2011. Through 18 starts, he is 8-5 with a much- more acceptable 3.69 ERA.
The right-hander's use of a sinker and the current motion of his delivery have led many to compare him to Halladay, reigning National League Cy Young Award winner and one of the current league leader's in victories. Surprisingly, Morton has been trying to shake the likening.
"It's not like we had posted frame-by-frame posters of him," Morton told Pittsburgh's website. "Anything that I was doing and anything I've done in my career mechanically has been done to benefit my career. It's not to gain notoriety because I look like somebody or I'm trying to be somebody.
"The only thing I try to do that he does is the tuck thing he does with his shoulder. And I doubt I even do it right."
Philadelphia got a good view of Morton on June 4, when the 27-year-old beat the club with seven innings of two-run ball. It was his first victory in four career games against the Phillies.
Morton, though, hasn't gone past six innings in seven straight starts since and departed after 5 1/3 frames on Sunday versus the Cardinals. He was charged with three runs on six hits and five walks, getting a no-decision in the club's 4-3 victory in extra innings.
Halladay, meanwhile, returned to form on Sunday versus the Padres after exiting his previous outing in Chicago after just four innings due to heat exhaustion, taking a loss. He rebounded to hold San Diego to three runs -- two earned -- on eight hits and a walk, striking out eight to win for the seventh time in eight decisions.
"He pitched pretty good. He was better at the end than he was at the beginning," said Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel about Halladay, who retired the final 10 batters he faced.
One of six NL pitchers tied for the league lead in wins, Halladay is 12-4 with a 2.55 ERA in 21 starts and the Phillies have won his past nine games at home. The 34-year-old righty is 7-1 with a 2.44 ERA in 12 starts overall at Citizens Bank Park this year.
Halladay is 2-1 with a 1.45 ERA in four career starts against the Pirates, including a victory on June 5 in which he allowed two runs over seven innings.
That was Philadelphia's lone victory of that three-game set in Pittsburgh and the Pirates have won six of the past eight meetings between the clubs.
The Phillies will try to get on track in this series after losing their final two meetings with the defending World Series champion Giants in a rematch of last year's NLCS. Thursday's 4-1 loss marked the first time Philadelphia has lost consecutive contests since a four-game slide from May 31-June 4.
The Phils went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position, but kept their five- game lead over the Braves for first-place in the NL East after Atlanta was dealt a 5-2 setback by Pittsburgh yesterday.
The Pirates were coming off a pair of extra-inning losses, including a 19- inning affair on Tuesday that resulted in Jerry Meals' blown call at home that handed Atlanta a 4-3 win, but battled through a 47-minute rain delay in the fourth inning to split the four-game series.
Andrew McCutchen made sure additional innings would not be needed as he hit a two-run homer in the ninth.
"It's tough to go on the road in a four-game series and get more than two," said winning starter Kevin Correia. "It could have been worse and it could have been better, but I think we hung in there for what we had to deal with. Obviously, they had the same thing. To come out with two at least, that's kind of what you're expected to do when you play a good team on the road."
McCutchen ended with three hits and Joel Hanrahan notched his 30th save as the Pirates stayed 1 1/2 games back of the first-place Brewers in the NL Central.