It didn’t take Charlie Morton long to settle in early, as he had no trouble turning over the Marlins lineup for the first time. A Sandy Leon single off the glove of Austin Riley in the third was the only Marlins baserunner against Morton over the first three innings.
Charlie F'n Morton, Unhittable 81mph Curveball...and Sword. ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/KwU7QfioJy— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 4, 2021
The Braves jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the third. Morton helped himself with a one-out bloop single and then came around to score on Ronald Acuña Jr’s 23rd home run of the season. Acuña had a great at-bat against Miami starter Zach Thompson, fouling off five straight pitches before getting a cutter out over the plate that he drove into the bleachers in right center.
Entering Sunday’s start, Morton had a 1.01 ERA, a 2.31 FIP, and a 2.84 xFIP when facing a lineup for the first time. Those numbers jump to 5.63/4.62/3.63 the second time and 5.68/3.68/4.40the third time through. Like his last start against the Mets, where he lost a shutout by giving up a three-run to James McCann the third time he faced him that evening, more or less the same thing played out again in Sunday’s start.
The Marlins broke through against Morton for their first run in the fourth inning. Starling Marte worked a leadoff walk and then stole second. He moved over to third on a fly out by Jesus Aguilar and then came in to score on a sacrifice fly by Adam Duvall on a barreled ball to left to cut the lead in half, 2-1.
Morton found himself in trouble again in the fifth when he again walked the leadoff man in the inning. After a five-pitch walk to Joe Panik, Morton recovered striking out Leon and Thompson before getting Jon Berti to ground out.
The Braves let Morton hit for himself in the fifth and he came back out for the sixth to face the Marlins lineup for the third time. Marte and Aguilar led off the inning with back-to-back singles. That brought Duvall to the plate, and he jumped all over a 1-0 curveball and drove it out to left center for a three-run home run to put Miami in front 4-2. Duvall continues to torment his former team as he now has five homers and 14 RBIs against Atlanta in just 10 games this season.
Morton got Miguel Rojas to ground out for the first out and then gave way to A.J. Minter who came in firing darts and struck out Jesus Sanchez and Panik to end the inning.
It was a familiar story for Morton, who looked dominant early only to have his final line skewed by one bad inning. He allowed five hits, two walks and four runs in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out seven and gave up the homer to Duvall.
The Braves got one of those runs back in the sixth, as Freddie Freeman worked a leadoff walk. Ozzie Albies then hit a rope that Duvall was able to flag down in right center. Freeman had to hustle back to first and narrowly beat the relay throw. Freeman moved up to second on a ground out by Riley and then came around to score on a double by Dansby Swanson. Thompson came back and struck out Guillermo Heredia to leave Swanson stranded.
Luke Jackson worked a scoreless seventh but Chris Martin ran into all kinds of trouble in the eighth. Aguilar led off the inning with a single. Duvall then narrowly missed another home run down the right field line that landed just to the right of the pole. The play was originally called a homer and Duvall circled the bases as though he had his second dinger of the game, but replay overturned it. Undeterred, Duvall singled to left and moved to second as Orlando Arcia threw late to third to try and nab Aguilar.
The Braves then caught a break as Martin broke Rojas’ bat on a grounder to Swanson. Duvall broke for third on the play and was tagged out for the first out. With runners still at the corners, Martin then struck out Sanchez for a huge second out. He then got Panik to ground to short to strand both runners.
Anthony Bender came on to pitch for the Marlins in the eighth and struck out Acuña to begin the inning. Freeman followed with a single to extend his hitting streak to eight games, but he was thrown out trying to steal second with Albies at the plate. Bender then struck out Albies to end the inning.
Miami blew the game open in the ninth against Shane Greene. Sandy Leon began the inning with a home run on an 0-2 pitch to make it 5-3. Greene then retired Garrett Cooper and Berti before Marte singled again. Aguilar then followed with a two-run home run to left to extend the lead to 7-3. Duvall followed with yet another single before Rojas struck out to bring the inning its merciful conclusion.
The Braves weren’t finished however. Austin Riley led off the inning with a single off of Yimi Garcia but was erased on a fielder’s choice. Heredia followed with a single to right to put runners at first and second. Orlando Arcia, making his Braves debut, singled back up the middle to score Swanson to make it 7-4. Pablo Sandoval pinch hit for William Contreras and walked on five pitches to load the bases. Brian Snitker then sent Abraham Almonte to pinch hit for the pitcher’s spot, and Almonte lined a double to left to score Heredia and Arcia to cut the deficit to 7-6. That brought Acuña to the plate, and he hurt the Marlins again with a sacrifice fly to right that scored pinch runner Ender Inciarte to tie the game. Miami then intentionally walked Freeman and Albies to load the bases to set up a force play. However with the winning run at third base, Riley struck out to send the game to extra innings.
Will Smith took over on the mound for the Braves in the 10th with Rojas starting the inning at second. After two failed bunt attempts, Sanchez grounded to Riley at third, who looked the runner back and then threw on to first for the first out. That brought up Jazz Chisholm, who didn’t start the game due to an ankle injury but came on as a defensive replacement late. Smith got Chisholm to lift a fly ball to Heredia in center for the second out, but Rojas tagged and moved over to third on the play. However, that would be as far as he would get as Leon popped out to end the inning.
Miami turned to right-hander Anthony Bass in the bottom half with Riley starting the inning at second base. Bass quickly fell behind Swanson 2-0 and Don Mattingly elected to put him on to set up a double play. Heredia then lifted a fly ball to right to Duvall for the first out but Riley tagged and moved over to third. Miami then walked Arcia to load the bases for Kevan Smith. Then controversy erupted again as Bass bounced a 1-1 pitch. Leon tracked it down quickly and tossed to Bass who tried to put the tag on a sliding Riley. Riley was originally ruled safe and the Braves began celebrating, but replay ruled that his front leg did not touch the plate before the tag.
Replay review overturned the call on the field and Austin Riley is ruled out here on what would have been the game-winning run. pic.twitter.com/nB98ENzISl— Bally Sports: Braves (@BravesOnBally) July 4, 2021
With a base open, the Marlins walked Smith to reload the bases for pinch hitter Max Fried. Bass fell behind in the count 3-1 before Fried served a solid single to center that scored Swanson to give the Braves an improbable 8-7 win.
With the win, Atlanta improves to 41-42 on the season and wraps up the homestand with a 4-2 record. The Braves will head back out on the road Monday where they will begin a three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.