Braves take stranglehold of NL East behind Charlie Morton’s gem

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In the biggest game of the season, Brian Snitker turned to the 37-year-old veteran Charlie Morton Tuesday night, who faced off with NL Cy Young candidate and Atlanta native Zack Wheeler. Wheeler had gotten the best of the Braves all season up to this point, entering the game with a 1.35 ERA in four starts against Atlanta. Tonight… not much changed.

The Braves only mustered four hits off Wheeler as he struck out seven over seven innings. However, Atlanta made the most of their first opportunity, which came in the third inning. A double by Travis d’Arnaud began the frame, followed up with a single off the bat of Dansby Swanson. Charlie Morton would then deliver a critical sac-bunt to set up runners in scoring position for Jorge Soler, who delivered in the clutch once again. This time, it was a rocket pulled over the third baseman’s head, bringing in two and opening up the scoring.

That’s all Morton needed. The man who ages like fine wine delivered his best performance of the season when the Braves needed it the most. He tied a season-high in strikeouts with ten over seven innings of shutout ball, as the Phillies could only record three hits against him. It was mostly a stress-free night for Morton, who rarely had to pitch with runners in scoring position. But of course, that changed once everyone’s favorite Brave entered the game.

Following a perfect eighth tossed by Luke Jackson, Will Smith entered to close the game after the Braves failed to cash in on an opportunity in the bottom half of the eighth. The inning began with a battle versus Bryce Harper, who entered Tuesday night 0-12 against Smith in his career. However, he took home a victory in this matchup by coaxing a walk.

The play that nearly cost the Braves came two batters later. Smith forced JT Realmuto to fly out to center field, and then looked to do enough to get Matt Vierling on a fly ball to Eddie Rosario. It was hit fairly well but was undoubtedly playable, and Rosario misplayed it, causing the ball to go off the top of his glove and to the wall, making it second and third for the Phillies with just one out.

A Didi Gregorious sac-fly would cut the lead to one and set up a showdown between Smith and Freddy Galvis with essentially the season on the line for the Phillies. Galvis didn’t go down without a fight, fouling off multiple pitches, but on the eighth pitch of the at-bat, Smith would blow a fastball at the bottom of the zone right by him, erupting a Truist Park crowd that felt like a playoff atmosphere.

The win cuts the Braves magic number down to just three with five games remaining. That means, if the Braves can just win one out of their next two matchups with the Phillies, they will have four opportunities to clinch the division. Of course, if the Braves win both of their remaining games against Philadelphia, they’ll clinch on Thursday night.

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  1. Pingback: Braves take stranglehold of NL East behind Charlie Morton's gem - sportstalkatl.com - PCSO NEWS

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