Charlie Morton and the third time through the order was a combination that proved disastrous for the Braves the last two times he took the hill. On Friday night, it worked out much better, as Morton worked through seven scoreless innings and the Braves cruised to a 5-0 win.
While the Marlins were initially planning to start out-of-nowhere success story Zach Thompson in this game (who was also Morton’s mound opponent last week in Atlanta), he was scratched with illness, and instead, Miami deployed a bullpen game. Anthony Bass was the first pitcher listed on the Marlins’ lineup card, and the Braves got to him early, as Freddie Freeman smacked a slider that hung around the middle of the zone out to right for a solo homer.
(A tangent: my 2.5-year-old does this bizarre but adorable thing where, if you ask her what anything is, and she doesn’t know how to describe it, she says, “It flies and it goes boom.” Well, that was a pretty weird “slider” from Bass, and Freeman definitely turned it into something that flies and goes boom.)
After that, the game featured a lot of goose eggs. Morton didn’t allow a baserunner until Joe Panik singled with one out in the third, and he got stranded on second after a sacrifice bunt. He got into a small jam in the fourth (one-out walk, followed by a single), but a soft liner to short and a three-pitch strikeout of Jesus Sanchez ended that potential rally. Still nursing that 1-0 lead in the sixth, Morton did not falter against the top of Miami’s order a third time — a two-out walk to Jesus Aguilar was rendered harmless when Adam Duvall, who hit the three-run, go-ahead homer off Morton last time out, grounded harmlessly to short. Morton finished his night with a 1-2-3 frame in the seventh, wrapping up his scoreless outing having allowed just two hits and two walks while striking out seven.
The Braves, meanwhile, couldn’t do anything against Shawn Morimando, a left-hander who was called up from the minors, presumably to eat some innings, before the game. Morimando ended up throwing five scoreless innings despite four walks and three hits to five strikeouts. The Braves could have blown the game open in the third when Morimando loaded the bases with two outs (walk, single, walk), but Abraham Almonte popped out to end the inning. There was another chance in the fifth, as Ronald Acuña Jr. singled and Freeman walked, but Ozzie Albies didn’t get enough out of a first-pitch swing that resulted in a fly out, and Austin Riley struck out on a horrible call on a curveball that was nowhere near the zone.
It was only in the seventh when the long stretch of scoreless frames was broken, and that inning had some fireworks for sure. After Morton struck out to start the inning against new reliever Anthony Bender, Acuña stepped to the plate... and was plunked with a 2-1 slider. Acuña walked toward the mound, Bender walked toward the plate, the umpire got in Acuña’s way, some players ran onto the field. It was a whole thing, but no one was ejected, and eventually, gameplay resumed. Two batters later, Albies looped a double into left to make it a 2-0 game, and Riley followed with his first triple of the season on a grounder down the left-field line.
The Braves tagged on a run against Steven Okert in the eighth. Dansby Swanson hit a leadoff double and scored on a pinch-hit double from Orlando Arcia. They did the same in the ninth against Zach Pop, with Riley connecting for a one-out double and Swanson scoring him with a single to right that was trapped, rather than caught, by a diving Duvall.
Luke Jackson worked a scoreless eighth with a 4-0 lead (one walk, one strikeout), and Jesse Chavez closed the game out with an 11-pitch, 1-2-3 inning that saw him strike out the last two batters he faced.
With the win, the Braves improve to 43-44, and still have a chance to get above .500 before the “first half” concludes, provided they can sweep this series. The Mets are currently crushing the Pirates despite trailing in that game early, so this won’t be a fruitful day in that regard. But, a good start for Morton, a decent showing for the bats, no one got hurt, and we’ll see what happens tomorrow.