Charlie Morton didn’t exactly excite fans in his first month-and-a-half with the Braves, boasting a 5.08 ERA through his first eight starts of 2021. That’s far from what Alex Anthopoulos was expecting when he signed him in the offseason to a one-year, $18 million deal, but he’s been a different beast ever since.
Entering last night, Morton had posted a 2.86 ERA over his previous six starts, including three outings in which he went at least six innings and allowed one run or less. His last time out, he went 7.2 innings, surrendering just three hits and no runs while striking out seven Cardinal batters. Yet amazingly, Morton might have been even better on Tuesday in a pivotal matchup versus the divisional-leading Mets.
Both teams went scoreless in the first before the Braves produced the first run-scoring opportunity, loading the bases with nobody out. But as they’ve done way too many times this season, they wasted it, failing to even bring across a single run, as Ender Inciarte, Charlie Morton, and Ronald Acuña all struck out. Thankfully, Morton wouldn’t need much help in this one. The 37-year-old set the Mets down in order again in the second before the Braves made up for their wrongdoings in the second when Dansby Swanson delivered with a two-out, three-run homer.
Morton would follow with another perfect frame in the third. His first mistake didn’t come until the fourth, when he hit Jeff McNeil and walked another two batters later. However, the Mets still couldn’t manage their first hit of the night, as Morton retired the next two in order via a strikeout and fly out.
After another scoreless frame by the Braves offense, New York would finally record a hit in about the oddest fashion possible. A pitcher, Jerad Eickhoff — who was pinch-hitting — reached on an infield single that found no man’s land in front of Morton. It was a brutal way to lose a no-hitter, but Morton didn’t let it cost him a shutout, as he retired Jeff McNeil to end the fifth.
That would be the only hit the Mets could muster off Morton. He nailed another batter in the sixth, but there was no further damage, and he retired the side in order in his seventh and final frame. Had Eickoff not lucked into a single, perhaps Snitker would have allowed Morton to continue, but at 107 pitches, it made sense for the Braves to turn to their bullpen. Morton’s final line read 7 innings, 0 runs, 1 hit, 2 walks, and 11 strikeouts. He has 18 strikeouts in 14.2 scoreless innings in his last two starts, lowering his season-ERA to 3.68.
The Mets failed to record a hit on Minter in the eighth, and while they were able to come up with a two-out double against Will Smith in the ninth, it was a case of too little, too late. The game would end on a line drive to Freddie Freeman, giving the Braves their second shutout win in a row over the Mets.
Don’t look now, but Atlanta is just four games back of New York in the NL East with one more game remaining in the series. It sure as hell would be nice to steal three out of four on the road against the division leaders, but tomorrow’s contest got much more interesting after it was announced Max Fried would miss his start. He’s heading to the 10-day IL with a blister on his throwing hand. In his place, Kyle Wright will make his second start of the season. The 25-year-old only allowed two earned runs last time out, but made it through just 4.1 innings.