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Morton off mark after long layoff, exits in 3rd

Red Sox pounce for 3 runs in righty's first outing of postseason
MLB.com @alysonfooter

HOUSTON -- The Astros didn't know what they were going to get from right-hander Charlie Morton on Wednesday night, considering he hadn't yet appeared in the postseason, and his last two regular-season outings didn't last very long.

So it wasn't a huge surprise that Morton, one of the key cogs in the Astros' World Series run a year ago, didn't last very long in his start against the Red Sox in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, which the Red Sox won, 8-6.

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HOUSTON -- The Astros didn't know what they were going to get from right-hander Charlie Morton on Wednesday night, considering he hadn't yet appeared in the postseason, and his last two regular-season outings didn't last very long.

So it wasn't a huge surprise that Morton, one of the key cogs in the Astros' World Series run a year ago, didn't last very long in his start against the Red Sox in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, which the Red Sox won, 8-6.

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He stayed in long enough to record one out in the third. Over a 53-pitch outing, he yielded three hits and three runs, walking two and striking out two. He left the game with the Astros trailing, 3-1.

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"He did the best he could," manager AJ Hinch said. "And I applaud him out there as well. I think fatigue set in pretty quickly for him. I thought he ran out of gas a little bit, which is why I got Josh [James] in there. But I thought he did his best."

"Not good," Morton said. "The command wasn't there in really anything. I didn't really know how my stuff looked."

Morton spent the last weeks of the regular season battling shoulder soreness. He left his second-to-last start after one inning, and threw three frames in Baltimore on Sept. 30 as more of an endurance test that wasn't expected to last long.

So asking him to shake off the rust enough to face a hot Boston lineup that was relentless in the first three games of the ALCS was probably a bit much.

"I expected Charlie to get into the third or fourth inning," Hinch said. "That was about the range. The game played out, minus the runs, as expected for him. I thought he did his best."

Morton hit Mookie Betts, the first batter he faced. After recording an out, he walked J.D. Martinez before throwing a wild pitch to advance the runners and allowing a two-run base hit to Rafael Devers.

Andrew Benintendi doubled to lead off the third, and after Morton's second wild pitch, Xander Bogaerts doubled just inside the third-base line. Morton was replaced by long reliever James, who finished the inning without allowing further damage. The Astros scored a pair in the bottom of the third to tie the game and take Morton off the hook.

Video: ALCS Gm4: Charlie Morton on poor ALCS outing

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"I thought it was OK in the first inning," Morton said. "That pitch to Devers just didn't get that down enough. Base hit brings in two runs and in the third inning, just hung a curveball.

"Fastball command [was] not good. If you can't throw strikes with your heater or locate your heater, you try to work ahead and I wasn't. It was just all around not good."

The outing matched the shortest start by an Astros pitcher in LCS play. Pete Munro worked 2 1/3 innings in Houston's 6-4 loss to the Cardinals in Game 6 of the 2004 NLCS.

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.

Houston Astros, Charlie Morton