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Morton struggles early, Pirates lose to Yankees 4-3 in opener of traditional doubleheader

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NEW YORK, N.Y. - Charlie Morton gave up one hit after the second inning. The first five batters he faced, though, spoiled his day.

Mark Teixeira hit a two-run single in the first, Brett Gardner added an RBI double in the second and the New York Yankees held on for a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday in the opener of a single-admission doubleheader.

Brian McCann had an RBI single and New York scored all its runs in the first two innings on five hits after belting five homers in a 7-1 victory Saturday.

Morton started off by walking Gardner, and it got worse. Derek Jeter bunted safely down the third base line and Morton hit Jacoby Ellsbury with a pitch to load the bases for Teixeira, who homered Saturday. This time, the hot-hitting first baseman lined a single to right-centre. McCann followed with a single for a 3-1 lead.

"I backed myself in a corner and they took advantage," Morton said.

Neil Walker homered off Hiroki Kuroda in the top of the first but New York went ahead 4-1 on Gardner's one-out double in the second. After that, Morton (0-6) faced the minimum through the seventh.

The Pirates scored three runs for Morton after giving him only three runs of support in his previous four starts. He gave up six hits and walked one with six strikeouts.

Kuroda (3-3) laboured through six innings to help the Yankees improve to 8-0 in interleague home games against Pittsburgh. He won for the first time since April 12 against Boston. He was 0-2 with three no-decisions during that stretch.

"As a pitcher, the win is always a good thing," Kuroda said through a translator. "Even though you may not have perfect stuff, to get the win is very encouraging."

David Robertson, the fourth Yankees reliever, got four outs for his eighth save.

New York will try for its third three-game sweep of the Pirates, along with 2005 and '07, in the finale of the first traditional twinbill at Yankee Stadium since 2004. Pittsburgh's Gerrit Cole faces Vidal Nuno.

With the second game scheduled to begin about 30 minutes after the end of the first, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Jeter would only start the opener. Girardi also said Ellsbury would not start in centre field both games after sitting out Saturday with flu-like symptoms.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said to expect lineup changes for the finale. His main concern, though, was protecting his bullpen for the second game, and Morton came through.

After Gardner doubled in the second, Morton settled down. He allowed just one baserunner the rest of his outing, and Zoilo Almonte, who singled with two outs in the fourth, was picked off first base — after a replay overturned an original safe call.

Walker added an RBI single in the fifth to cut the lead to 4-3. Tony Sanchez homered leading off the fifth.

"We had some opportunities again," Hurdle said. "We pushed (Kuroda), pushed the pitch limit. He found outs when he had to to stay in the game and complete the innings that he pitched."

Kuroda threw 98 pitches in his first win since April 12, a span of six starts. The former Los Angeles Dodger improved to 6-1 against Pittsburgh.

NOTES: Starling Marte struck out in each of his four at-bats. ... The Pirates' streak of the leadoff batter reaching in eight straight games ended when Travis Snider struck out looking. ... The Pirates recalled RHP Brandon Cumpton from Triple-A Indianapolis as the 26th man for the doubleheader. The Yankees brought up RHP Jose Ramirez from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

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