PHILADELPHIA -- Charlie Morton threw seven scoreless innings against his former team and rookie outfielder Derek Fisher capped a four-run sixth inning with a two-run single to lift the Astros to a 5-0 win over the Phillies on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park.The Astros improved to an American League-best
PHILADELPHIA -- Charlie Morton threw seven scoreless innings against his former team and rookie outfielder Derek Fisher capped a four-run sixth inning with a two-run single to lift the Astros to a 5-0 win over the Phillies on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park.
The Astros improved to an American League-best 67-33 at the 100-game mark of their season, including 37-12 on the road and 9-0 in Interleague Play. The Astros began the day with a 17-game lead over the Mariners in the AL West.
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Morton (8-4), who pitched four games for the Phillies last year before blowing out his hamstring running the bases, won for the third time in four July starts. He allowed three hits -- all doubles -- and walked one while striking out seven. It was his longest scoreless outing since throwing seven innings on Aug. 2, 2015, with the Pirates against the Reds.
"I thought he cleaned up his delivery and his aggressiveness inside the strike zone," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "This team, they come out swinging, and it can make you shy away from the strike zone a little bit early. He got some good defensive plays behind him early, which gave him a little bit of a cushion, and the big inning by us gave even more."
Morton said Tuesday's start was significant for him considering his family ties to the area. His grandfather, who died in June 2014, used to take him to Phillies games at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. His grandfather, Bob Pfeilsticker, was a World War II veteran who played baseball at Temple University and was signed to a Minor League contract with the Philadelphia A's by Connie Mack.
"It's a nice feeling to come back here," Morton said. "It's a pretty special start for me. I'm wondering if it's going to be my last time pitching here. My mom's side of the family is here, my wife's side of the family is here. It was nice."
Phillies starter Nick Pivetta (3-6) held the Astros' mighty offense to one run and one hit through five innings before five of the first six Houston batters reached in the sixth, with RBI singles by Josh Reddick and Marwin Gonzalez making it 3-0. Fisher followed with a two-run single with two outs.
"I fell behind a little bit, but I was able to battle back," Pivetta said. "They hit some pitches. That's a good hitting team. There's a reason why they have 60-plus wins. I've got to be better. No excuses. Work on it for next time."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Fish story: Moments after Yuli Gurriel took third base and Gonzalez took second on a double steal, Fisher -- called up after Monday night's game -- stroked a two-run single to right field to put the Astros ahead, 5-0. Fisher also made nice running catches to end the first and second innings in his first career big league start in center field.
"Marwin had a good at-bat and drove the ball back up the middle and gets an RBI," Fisher said. "A guy like me, coming up behind that, I just want to back that up and put together a good at-bat." More >
Morton rights ship: Morton was shaky early, hitting the second batter of the game, Freddy Galvis, with a pitch before walking Nick Williams to put runners at first and second with one out. The veteran rebounded to get Howie Kendrick to hit into a fielder's choice before Odubel Herrera flied out to deep center. Fisher made the catch as he hit the wall, and Morton didn't allow more than one baserunner in his final six innings.
"My delivery was a little weird tonight," Morton said. "I kind of settled down and got in a little bit of a groove. ... I was dealing with some timing issues and got some funky stuff going on with my hands in terms of timing. The ball's coming out in a couple of spots, where it wound up I didn't expect it to go there, and that's kind of a scary feeling, especially when you're throwing really hard."
"It's exciting. I had a lot of adrenaline going. I was just very excited. Not a lot of guys come back to pitch where they started. This place will always have a special place in my heart."-- Astros closer Ken Giles, who was traded by the Phillies prior to the 2016 season, on pitching a scoreless ninth inning
"I have to keep having conversations, that's all. He's a different kind of guy. I just have to keep him pointed in the right direction." -- Phillies manager Pete Mackanin, on pulling Herrera from the game after he didn't run to first base in the sixth inning on a strikeout that got away
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Astros second baseman Jose Altuve extended his career-high hitting streak to 17 games by going 1-for-4. He's hitting .513 (39-for-76) during the streak, which is the longest active streak in the AL.
Astros: Right-hander Mike Fiers (7-4, 3.59 ERA) looks to keep his season rolling when he faces the Phillies in Wednesday's 6:05 p.m. CT series finale at Citizens Bank Park. After a rocky start, Fiers is 6-2 with a 2.36 ERA in his last 10 starts (since May 30). He ranks fourth in the Majors in ERA during that span, trailing past Cy Young Award winners Corey Kluber (1.52), Clayton Kershaw (1.65) and Max Scherzer (1.77).
Phillies: Right-hander Aaron Nola (7-6, 3.38) faces the Astros in Wednesday night's 7:05 ET series finale at Citizens Bank Park. Nola has been sharp lately. He is 4-1 with a 1.70 ERA in six starts since June 16. He has struck out 50 and walked just 13 in 42 1/3 innings in that stretch.
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Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.**.
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.