ATLANTA – Charlie Morton flirted with a hit and gave the Braves the boost they needed in a 4-0 win over the Cardinals on Thursday night at Truist Park.
“It was about as much clutch as it has been all year,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “It was really fun to watch. ”
What has been perhaps the most frustrating stretch of this grueling season for the Braves was interrupted by one of the most impressive performances. Morton made his offer without a hit in the seventh inning and allowed just three hits in 7 2/3 innings. The 37-year-old pitcher became the oldest pitcher in Atlanta to produce a scoreless performance of this length since John Smoltz, 39, in 2006.
“The Charlie Morton Express was rolling tonight,” said Braves reliever Luke Jackson. “People don’t like to move when it’s happening, especially in the bullpen. When there is a hit or something special going on, you have to trigger it quickly because you are not changing the mojo there.
Jackson quickly prepared to record the eighth final, and Will Smith worked out a perfect ninth to preserve Morton’s gem – and possibly change the bullpen mojo. The relief corps struggles extended into two games in Philadelphia last week, and as Boston rallied to claim return wins in Atlanta on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Braves entered this series after losing six of their last seven games. They played five under-0.500 games, a season high, and needed the pick-up provided by Morton, who provided some insight into why he got a one-year, $ 15 million contract in November.
Morton’s efforts could bring the Braves the calm they were looking for. The veteran pitcher hit a pair of batters in the first five innings but was otherwise perfect before Paul Goldschmidt hit center with a seventh putout. The veteran pitcher hadn’t played more than seven innings since April 30, 2018 and his last full game was in 2011.
But Morton was considering the possibility of throwing what would have been the Braves’ first hit since Kent Mercker threw one at Dodger Stadium on April 8, 1994.
“I was aware of it,” Morton said with a laugh. “It’s fun to be in this place every now and then. ”
It was also a rebound effort for Morton, who had a 4.50 ERA after allowing four runs in just four innings in Miami on Friday. He tinkered with the timing of her delivery and found better results. He’s happy with how he’s pitched over the past month, even though he entered Thursday’s outing after allowing at least three runs in one set in seven of his 13 starts.
“Overall I think I’m headed in the right direction,” Morton said.
Instead of playing with his bullpen again, Snitker fired Morton to start the eighth inning, having already thrown 97 shots. When two of the first four Cardinals scored a single, Jackson came in to record a gem-preserving strikeout.
As Morton handed the ball to Snitker, he showed genuine appreciation.
“I said thank you to [Snitker] when he let me go over there for the eighth, ”Morton said. “For me, it’s really important when you’re deeper into a game and a manager really wants to hear what you have to say. When I got back to the canoe he looked me in the eye and asked if I was still ready to go.
“It’s a unique position in which your manager actually gives you the opportunity to discuss a plan and a decision that is really theirs at the end of the day. You no longer have those opportunities.