Charlie Morton tossed an utter gem of a performance against the Phillies tonight, as his seven scoreless innings and multitude of strikeouts helped put the clamps on Atlanta’s divisional rivals. Jorge Soler’s two-run single in the third inning ended up being enough for the Braves to eke out a 2-1 victory over Philadelphia.
For most of this game, we got the pitcher’s duel that we were all expecting going into this one. There were a bunch of zeroes scattered around the scoreboard for most of this one. The biggest exception was the bottom of the third, which is when the Braves wasted no time getting a rally going.
Travis d’Arnaud led off the third with a double, then Dansby Swanson poked one out to center for a single. In the midst of tossing a gem, Charlie Morton was also able to do what was asked of him with the bat. Brian Snitker didn’t ask him for much — just lay down a bunt and get Dansby over to second. After Morton accomplished that mission with a good bunt, Jorge Soler came up and hit the first pitch he saw in his second at-bat against Zack Wheeler right into left field for an RBI single that plated both d’Arnaud and Swanson to put the Braves in the lead. Freddie Freeman and Ozzie Albies grounded out to end the inning, but the damage was done.
Those two runs ended up being more than what was needed for Charlie Morton. In a game where the Braves needed him most, Morton delivered and threw what was one of his best games of the 2021 season. By the time Morton threw his 101st and final pitch to end his night, Morton had seven innings under his belt with ten strikeouts and just two walks and three hits allowed. Most importantly, he kept the Phillies off the scoreboard while he was on the mound and was able to make that two-run lead stick.
Meanwhile, Zack Wheeler was still just as good as advertised. He’s been great against the Braves all season and aside from the third inning, this was no exception to the rule. Wheeler went seven innings as well, and he sat down the Braves in order in five of those innings. With that being said, he probably wishes that he could have that third inning back and personally, I’m pretty happy that there’s no such thing as inning mulligans in baseball. Either way, we got the pitcher’s duel that we all expected going into this one and it was just as nervy and tense as you could expect it to be.
Once the eighth inning rolled around, both teams went to their bullpens. Luke Jackson has been really good this season and he continued that run with a 1-2-3 inning to sit down the Phillies in the eighth. After Hector Neris kept the Braves scoreless in their half of the eighth, it was once again time (for better or for worse) for Will Smith to attempt a save. As of late, Will Smith innings have been absolute thrill rides that have been fun for neutral observers and absolutely terrifying for Braves fans.
This outing was no different. Will Smith admirably battled Bryce Harper for nine pitches, but Harper won the battle by seeing enough pitches to walk his way to first base. The first out came in incredibly stressful fashion, as it took Guillermo Heredia making an excellent play to catch a liner from J.T. Realmuto. The Will Smith thrill ride took a detour in the next AB, as Smith was actually not to blame for this next calamity. Instead, it was Eddie Rosario, who inexplicably let what should’ve been a relatively easy fly out from Matt Vierling go off his glove. The tying run was now in scoring position with just one out, and Snitker intentionally walked Andrew McCutchen to set up a potential double play.
Didi Gregorius didn’t ground into a twin killing, but he did trade an out for a run after his sacrifice fly brought in Bryce Harper to finally put the Phillies on the board. It was a trade that Will Smith and the Braves were happy to make, as that was out number 26 on their quest for what suddenly turned into an epic final stretch to get out number 27. Will Smith fell behind 3-0 to Freddy Galvis, but got a called strike and a foul ball to battle back and bring up a full count. After two more foul balls, Smith threw a 93 miles-per-hour fastball right down the middle and Galvis whiffed on it for strike three to finally end this sweat-inducing inning — giving the Braves a 24-karat golden victory.
This may have been yet another heart attack-inducing save from Will Smith, but he got the job done and it was enough to preserve what was an fantastic start for Charlie Morton. It also sent Atlanta’s Magic Number down to 3 while stretching their lead to three-and-a-half games. It was a huge win for the Braves and another win in this series would be absolutely beautiful. The Braves can focus on that tomorrow night but for now, they’ve gotten off to the good start that they absolutely needed.