The Atlanta Braves climbed back to the .500 mark for the season with a 3-1 win over the Boston Red Sox Tuesday night at Fenway Park. Charlie Morton escaped some early trouble to turn in one of his best pitching performances of the season.
“I got into a jam early and they hit a couple balls right at people,” said Morton referring to the first inning where Christian Vazquez lined into a double play with the bases loaded. That play came two pitches after Morton bounced a breaking ball that hit Rafael Devers to force in Boston’s only run of the evening.
“They got me into the stretch early, then I was able to get a little momentum out of the wind up, which helps me to get settled,” Morton said. “Then my pitch mix developed and Willy did a heck of a job back there. Probably some of the better mixing that I’ve done with my pitches and actually landing the breaking balls. That was really it, just not falling into many patterns, especially once we got to the third inning and kept working past that.”
Morton has been lights out in his last two starts allowing just five hits and two runs (one earned) over his last 13 innings. He has struck out 17 over that span and walked just two. The stuff has been there all season, but the results are starting to more closely resemble what the Braves were looking for when they signed him to a one-year, $15 million deal during the offseason.
“He was leaving it out there in that first inning when things were happening, it was really good to get out of there with just one run,” Brian Snitker said of Morton’s performance. “Then he kind of found that rhythm and man that was really good because that is a really good club.”
While the Braves’ offense has garnered the majority of the headlines of late, it is the pitching, and particularly the starting rotation, that has settled in. Atlanta’s starting unit posted a 5.12 ERA and a 5.07 FIP in April ranking them 28th in the league. Since May 1, they have a 2.62 ERA and a 3.64 FIP which is tied for first in the Majors over that span.
“It is just kind of getting settled in and getting regular now,” Snitker said of the rotation. “Max, Charlie, Drew, all of them. Ian has continued to fight his way through and they are pitching like they’re capable of pitching and it’s been good. I have always said that if they’re doing the majority of the innings we’re probably going to be doing pretty good. They have been, and it’s been really good to see.”
Marcell Ozuna traveling back to Atlanta for evaluation
Marcell Ozuna left Tuesday’s win in the third inning after he dislocated his middle and ring fingers on his left hand on an attempted slide at third base. Ozuna left the game immediately and will travel back to Atlanta where he will be examined by team doctors.
“He dislocated the ring finger and the middle finger of his left hand,” Snitker said. “We are going to send him back to Atlanta to have our doctors look at him to see if anything’s going on.” Snitker could not say whether the injury would force Ozuna to the injured list.
“I really can’t say until they look at it. We just want our hand guys to look at him. We should know once he gets back there and gets looked at what the prognosis is.”
The Braves will wrap up their series in Boston on Wednesday and have another off day on Thursday before opening a three-game set in New York Friday against the Mets.
Edgar Santana called upon for high leverage opportunity in the eighth
Snitker called upon Edgar Santana to pitch the eighth in a high leverage spot with a 3-1 lead and the heart of the Red Sox order coming up. Santana got pinch hitter Marwin Gonzalez to ground out and then struck out Kike Hernandez for the first two outs. He then walked Alex Verdugo, but got J.D. Martinez to ground out sharply to Austin Riley to end the inning.
“That stuff’s real, that sinker is real and the breaking balls have been better since he’s been back,” Snitker said of Santana. “Even the ninth inning the other day, even though we had a big lead, it’s still the ninth inning. Today, that’s about as high leverage as you can get. You’re at Fenway Park with a 3-1 game with the heart of that lineup coming up.”
The Braves have been searching for another right handed option to emerge out of the bullpen seemingly all season. Santana has allowed just one run over 3 1/3 innings since returning to the active roster.
If you were wondering where Chris Martin was on Tuesday, Snitker said that he was fine but was unavailable. Martin logged a scoreless inning Sunday against Pittsburgh before Monday’s off day.