Charlie Morton and third time through the order was a combination that proved disastrous for the Braves the last two times he took the hill. Friday night it worked out much better as Morton worked through seven pointless innings and the Braves battled for a 5-0 victory.
While Marlins originally planned to start a success story Zach Thompson out of nowhere in this game (who was also Morton’s opponent last week in Atlanta), he was scratched by illness, and instead Miami inserted a bullpen game. Anthony Bass was the first pitcher listed on the Marlins’ lineup card, and the Braves came to him early when Freddie Freeman slammed a slider that hung around the center of the zone to the right of a solo homer.
(A tangent: my 2.5-year-old does this bizarre but sweet thing, where, if you ask her what it is and she does not know how to describe it, she says, “It flies, and it goes boom. “Well, that was a pretty weird”
Then the game contained one lot of goose eggs. Morton did not allow a baserunner until Joe Panik singled with one out in the third, and he was stranded in second place after a sacrificial bundle. He got into a little jam in the fourth (one-out walk, followed by a single), but a soft liner for cards and a three-pitch strikeout by Jesus Sanchez ended the potential rally. Morton, who still maintains the 1-0 lead in the sixth, did not reach the top of Miami’s order a third time – a two-out walk to Jesus Aguilar was rendered harmless when Adam Duvall, who hit three-runs, clear signal homer off Morton last time, grounded harmlessly to short. Morton ended his evening with a 1-2-3 frame in the seventh, wrapping up his goalless outing that had only allowed two hits and twice while hitting seven.
The Braves, meanwhile, could do nothing against Shawn Morimando, a left-hander called up from minors, presumably to eat a few innings before the match. Morimando ended up throwing five pointless innings despite four walks and three hits to five strikeouts. The Braves could have blasted the game open in the third as Morimando loaded the bases with two outs (go, single, go), but Abraham Almonte popped out to end the inning. There was another chance in the fifth when Ronald Acuña Jr. singled, and Freeman went, but Ozzie Albies did not get enough out of a first turn that resulted in a plane out, and Austin Riley struck out on a terrible call on a basket ball that was nowhere near the zone.
It was only in the seventh, when the long stretch of fruitless frames was broken, and that inning certainly had some fireworks. After Morton struck out to start inning against new reliever Anthony Bender, Acuña went on the plate … and was plunked with a 2-1 shooter. Acuña went against the mound, Bender went against the plate, the referee came in Acuña’s way, some players ran onto the pitch. It was a whole thing, but no one was pushed out, and eventually the gameplay resumed. Two strokes later, Albies looped a double to the left to make it a 2-0 game, and Riley followed with his first triple season on a shallower down the left field line.
The Braves tagged on a race 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, where Riley connected to a one-out double, and Swanson scored him with a single to the right that was caught instead of caught by a diving Duvall.
Luke Jackson worked a goalless eighth with a 4-0 lead (a walk, a strike) and Jesse Chavez closed out the game with an 11-pitch, 1-2-3 inning that saw him beat the last two butchers he faced for .
With the win, the Braves improve to 43-44 and still have a chance to get over 0.500 before the “first half” ends, provided they can sweep this series. The Mets are currently crushing the Pirates despite having played early, so this will not be a fruitful day in that regard. But a good start for Morton, a decent show for the bats, no one was hurt and we’ll see what happens tomorrow.