Coming into the series, the expectation was that it would be a low-scoring affair with both team’s starting pitchers taking center stage. Well, Charlie Morton and Corbin Burnes lived up to that.
It took Burnes a little longer to settle in and the Braves missed out on a scoring opportunity in the first. Burnes began the game by issuing back-to-back walks to Jorge Soler and Freddie Freeman. Soler actually advanced all the way to third as ball four to Freeman got away from catcher Omar Narvaez. With runners at the corners, Ozzie Albies grounded a 1-0 pitch to Rowdy Tellez at first who stepped on the bag and then threw home in time to nab Soler at the plate for a momentum crushing double play.
Freeman moved to second on the play and then moved to third on a wild pitch but Austin Riley struck out to leave him stranded.
Charlie Morton came out firing and struck out the side in the first. Burnes issued another walk in the second to Travis d’Arnaud but Dansby Swanson grounded out to end the inning. While the Braves didn’t record a hit, Burnes needed 40 pitches to navigate through the first two innings.
Morton struck out two more hitters in the second including Rowdy Tellez on a nasty curveball down and in.
Charlie F'n Morton, Vicious 82mph Curveball.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 8, 2021
3,161 RPMs. pic.twitter.com/KhQbqR7hMt
Morton allowed a one-out single to Lorenzo Cain in the third. Cain was erased on a bunt attempt by Burnes that was fielded by Freeman who fired to second for the out. Morton then carved up Wong to strand the runner at first.
After laboring a bit through the first two innings, Burnes settled in and retired seven straight before Eddie Rosario reached on a bloop single to lead off the fifth inning. He was quickly erased on a double play grounder by d’Arnaud. Dansby Swanson followed with a single to left but Morton bounced back to the mound for the final out.
Morton allowed a single to Narvaez in the fifth but got Crain to ground into a force play for the third out. Burnes continued to match him pitch for pitch striking out both Soler and Albies in a scoreless sixth.
Craig Counsell sent Daniel Vogelbach to pinch-hit for Burnes in the home half of the sixth and Morton walked immediately him on four pitches. Vogelbach gave way to pinch-runner Jackie Bradley Jr. Morton fell behind Wong 2-0, but Wong swung at the next pitch and lifted a fly ball to Rosario in left for the first out. Morton then got Adames to fly out to Duvall in center and Yelich to fly to left for the final out.
Burnes was excellent after the tough start. He allowed just two hits and three walks over six innings. He struck out six while throwing 91 pitches.
Adrian Houser took over for Burnes in the seventh and retired the side in order on three ground outs.
Morton came back out for the seventh and things immediately went sideways. Morton got ahead of Avisail Garcia 1-2 but then hit him with a pitch. That brought Tellez to the plate, and he jumped on a 1-2 fastball in the middle of the plate and drove it out to center for a two-run home run.
Morton was replaced by Luke Jackson, who promptly served up a single to Eduardo Escobar. However, Jackson got Narvaez to ground into a 4-6-3 double play and then retired Cain on a grounder to Riley to bring the inning to an end.
Morton deserved a better fate. He labored a bit in the sixth but still retired the side on three weakly hit fly balls before coming back out for the seventh where he made one mistake and paid for it. He allowed three hits and two runs over six plus innings to go along with nine strikeouts. He threw 85 pitches with 60 going for strikes.
The Braves finally got on the board in the eighth. Houser struck out d’Arnaud and then got Swanson to ground out for the first two outs. Joc Pederson then came on to pinch hit for Jackson and homered to left-center to cut the deficit in half at 2-1.
Joctober is back!— MLB (@MLB) October 8, 2021
The Braves cut the deficit to 1. pic.twitter.com/sFLUVLWT2K
Tyler Matzek allowed a two-out single to Adames and then walked Yelich but came back and struck out Garcia to strand the runners.
Atlanta wouldn’t go away quietly as Freeman worked a lead off walk against Josh Hader in the ninth. Albies chased strike three for the first out but Riley followed with a single to put runners at first and second. Adam Duvall bounced in front of the plate and Narvaez pounced on it and threw to second for the second out. Hader then got pinch-hitter Orlando Arcia to ground out to second for the final out.
We came in expecting a low-scoring game and that is what we got. The Braves had their opportunities but were unable to find that key hit. Game 2 will be Saturday with Max Fried matching up against Brandon Woodruff.