Charlie Morton delivers a masterclass, but the Braves can’t let their foot off the gas

Bleacher Report Braves DeGrom

When the Braves needed him the most, Charlie Morton, who has admittedly not had one of his best seasons, delivered a masterclass against the first place Mets by tossing 6.2 shutout innings with 12 strikeouts.

It was especially impressive given the moment — it was a must-win game for the Braves — and the lineup Morton did it against. The Mets, while they don’t possess a ton of power, are the scrappiest bunch in baseball. Strikeouts aren’t easy to come by, and frustration builds up quickly.

But the 38-year-old Morton flashed his veteran savviness and delivered his best performance of the season. He’s pitched in some of the biggest games in the sport’s history, so when it came to yesterday, it was just another Tuesday night — one that was probably enjoyed by a well-deserved glass of wine afterwards.

The win puts the Braves 3.5 games back of the Mets, as Atlanta has cut the division lead by half in just a week. What once seemed insurmountable now feels within arm’s reach. But the biggest test lies ahead in the form of the best 1-2 punch in baseball — Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom.

Since returning from injury on July 5th, Scherzer (8-2, 1.93 ERA) has looked as good as ever — incredible, given his Hall of Fame resumé. He owns a 1.36 ERA over his last eight starts, which includes two outings against the Braves in which he allowed just one earned run while striking out 20 over 14 innings. The Mets won both of those games, but surprisingly, they are just 5-3 in games started by Scherzer since he returned to the mound. The key to the Braves turning the tables will be limiting New York’s offense, which will be up to the newly acquired Jake Odorizzi.

Odorizzi (4-4, 3.80 ERA) came to the Braves in the trade that sent Will Smith to Houston. He has made two starts since then, and both were pretty underwhelming. One of them came against the Mets, as he allowed three runs over 4.2 innings of work. That’s not likely to get the job done with Scherzer on the bump, but keeping the game within reaching distance for as long as possible will be critical for the Braves to cut the division lead even further.

On Thursday, the Braves will get their second look at Jacob deGrom this season. The good news is he will likely still be on a pitch count. The bad news is he was still able to get through 5.2 innings with 12 strikeouts on just 75 pitches last time he faced the Braves.

When it comes to deGrom, all opponents can really do is hope and pray. When he’s got his A stuff, nobody’s scoring, but every once in a while, he’ll make a mistake. He made one last time out against Dansby Swanson, who took advantage with a two-run homer. That wasn’t enough to earn the win, but the Braves will once again have to make the most of the few opportunities deGrom offers. Whoever is on the mound across from him (currently TBD) must have their best stuff.

 

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