HOUSTON – Inside the Minute Maid Park clubhouse training room in Game 1 of the World Series, friends kept passing by to apologize to Atlanta Braves pitcher Charlie Morton, to his misfortune. His response to them, and others who reached out and wished him luck after a comeback broke his leg, was the same: “I’m sorry. “
The guy who carried a 102mph shot from his right fibula in the second inning was sorry. The guy who overcame the pain to face three other hitters – and take them all out – was sorry. The guy who pushed himself so far his leg literally gave in under the stress of his effort was sorry.
“And if that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about Charlie Morton,” said Atlanta star Freddie Freeman, “I don’t know what does. “
Pain, it is important to understand, has always been a part of Morton’s baseball experience. It’s not something he would wish on someone else – Morton is legendary serious, as his apology illustrates – but he’s here now, still playing baseball at 37, because of what ‘he learned in the first half of his career, when all he seemed to know was what it was like his body to betray him. There were injuries large and small, lost tip years, and stolen talent, and eventually Morton began to understand that his job involved coming to terms with a barbaric reality: throwing a baseball for a living requires hard work. ‘kiss the wound.
Still, what Morton did on Tuesday night went beyond pain tolerance. The tone he set in Atlanta’s 6-2 win over the Houston Astros was very clear. He wanted so badly to win a championship that he was throwing it until his body wouldn’t let him. He wanted to do it against the team he won a ring with in 2017 and for the team he returned to this year after almost a decade and a half away.
“He was doing exactly what we hired him to do,” said Atlanta manager Brian Snitker. “Bring credibility. He did it all year round. He did it tonight. And I hate it for him. He really is the kind of guy who would break his leg and apologize. “
Atlanta signed Morton to a one-year, $ 15 million contract last November because his stunted arm could still whip fast balls at 97 mph and curve balls at 80 mph, of course. But more than that, it was for the same reason he was so beloved in Tampa Bay Rays and Astros clubs before Atlanta: to have Morton around is an exercise in joy and fun, seeing someone overflowing with good vibrations makes him self-deprecate.
“He’s playing eight innings, giving up a run and he’s like, ‘I’m sorry, guys,’” said Atlanta wide receiver Travis d’Arnaud. “He really, sincerely feels he shouldn’t have given up on a race. “
“Everyone knows their resume, and their humility is something you wouldn’t expect from someone with that kind of resume. He’s so genuine all the time, very open with whatever he thinks of anyone. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never played a day in your life or you’re 20 years old with the big boys. “
This is the reason why so many teammates passed through the training hall on Tuesday night. Morton is loved. He was when he arrived in Atlanta at the age of 24 after spending seven years with minors, and he was when Tommy John’s surgery, hip surgery, and injury to the shoulder derailed his career, and it is now that he has finally remained healthy for a few years in a row – culminating this season, in which he finished tied for the National League lead with 33 starts and was typically dominant in most cases.
Braves starter Charlie Morton makes a comeback to his right leg in the second inning and is forced out of the game one inning later.
At first, Morton didn’t look particularly hurt from the 96 mph fastball as American League batting champion Yuli Gurriel ricocheted off Morton, bouncing off Freeman for an easy takedown. Morton acted like nothing had happened. He struck out Chas McCormick on four shots. He threw six more at Martin Maldonado, wincing at times but maybe no more than on an average Charlie Morton start, in which his faces regularly play.
Between the innings, an x-ray machine in the stadium took a picture of Morton’s leg, and the diagnosis was: no break. It hurt, but once upon a time there was also his shoulder, his elbow and his hip, and he got away with it. It was the World Series. Even though Atlanta thinks so much about Morton that he’s already signed him for a $ 20 million extension for 2022, no one can predict what will come next. It was perhaps his best chance to win a title. The discomfort wasn’t going to keep him from coming back.
So he came back for the third inning, when he threw six pitches and caught Altuve looking at a curve ball for the second time, only after this one he did a pirouette, a grimace crinkling his face and avoided landing on a red leg for 30 minutes. , 39 seconds earlier had been ambushed by Gurriel’s batted bullet.
“It’s amazing that he even thought about going, and I bet you it was so that AJ could have more time to prepare,” Arnaud said of AJ Minter, the reliever who spelled Morton with a record 2 ⅔ innings. . “He sacrificed himself.
There’s something about this Braves team and the way they respond to injuries. Halfway through the year, he lost Ronald Acuña Jr., one of baseball’s best players, to an ACL tear – and got better. The relievers were due to secure the last 20 strikeouts on Tuesday against a devastating Astros lineup. It worked in the first game. With Morton out for the rest of the World Series (a second x-ray, after the third set, revealed the fractured fibula), the prospect of several reliever games in the future makes the path even more difficult.
That’s why Morton was sorry. Not for something he actively did, of course, but because Gurriel’s bat struck his pitch at a negative angle of 6 degrees and the cutting of the grass and the swing of his leg conspired in such a way. so that the latter ended up in a boot. He was sorry he only played 2⅓ inning, because he expected more than that.
There was no bloody sock to commemorate Game 1, nothing tangible beyond Morton literally becoming a Sorry Charlie. Ultimately, there’s just the hope that the guy who kept throwing until his leg broke will have a gold and diamond ring to show for it.