Morton nearly unhittable, but 'pen can't finish

July 3rd, 2022

CINCINNATI -- The Braves’ starting pitching gave manager Brian Snitker about as good of a three-game stretch as he could have hoped for in his club's series victory over the Reds.

After dominant outings from starters Max Fried and Spencer Strider in the first two games, he turned to trusty 15-year pro Charlie Morton to put them in a position to sweep.

Morton delivered, and then some, despite his club falling, 4-3, on Sunday to conclude the road trip.

The righty has faced the Reds 20 times in his career, but had his strongest outing against them yet, tossing seven shutout innings, allowing just one hit and striking out 11. Morton -- who is no stranger to Great American Ball Park, having pitched there more than any other opposing venue during his impressive big league career -- was able to hold his opponents hitless until the seventh inning, when leadoff batter Max Schrock slapped a single up the middle to end the suspense.

“It was nice to go there and throw strikes and in general, feel like I was working ahead of guys,” Morton said.

While admitting he didn't feel much different than he had during his last few starts, Morton gave his team more than enough for a shot at a sweep.

“Charlie was really good,” Snitker said. “We’ve had back-to-back starts where we’ve given up two hits and 22 strikeouts [total].”

All three of Atlanta’s starting pitchers in the series went at least six innings and combined for 26 strikeouts.

Morton had the most success on his sweeping curveball -- which Reds hitters whiffed on 53% of the time -- helping him put several hitters away.

Six outs away from a series sweep, Snitker removed Morton and tasked RHP Collin McHugh with the 8th inning. In situations where their bullpen typically thrives, McHugh allowed four consecutive one-out hits, including a pinch-hit, two-run double by Brandon Drury to put the Reds ahead.

Braves outfielders Marcell Ozuna and Michael Harris II both went deep to tie the game in the ninth inning, but A.J. Minter was unable to record an out in the bottom half and allowed the game-winning run.

While letting a game slip away that they usually bring home, Snitker wasn't going to let one loss take away from a dominant series win on the road. Especially since the team finished 4-2 on the road trip, and captured series wins in both.

“We came back and gave ourselves a chance to win,” Snitker said. “[The] last inning didn’t go our way.”

“[Morton] was good, obviously,” said Reds right fielder Albert Almora Jr., who went 0-for-2 against the righty but hit the walk-off single against Minter. “When you have a no-hitter going through the sixth or seventh, you’re on. My first at-bat, I was sticking to my approach, and I saw everything well. the second at-bat, he threw me a good sinker in, and I broke my bat.”

This deep into his career, Morton continues to pitch deep into outings, giving his club a chance to win. Snitker believes that speaks volumes to his commitment as a pro.

“[Morton carries] himself like a professional,” Snitker said. “[It’s] amazing how he takes care of himself to be able to do this at his age, to go deep into a game like that on a day like this, speaks volumes to his dedication to the game.”