Morton's 'devastating' curve keys shutout win

Right-hander ties season high with 12 K's as Braves win 8th straight

August 17th, 2022

ATLANTA -- Matt Olson’s latest step toward another 30-homer season helped the Braves move back toward the top of the National League East standings. Charlie Morton’s impressive start showed the defending champions might have what it takes to win a second straight World Series.

Olson highlighted a three-hit night with his 25th homer and Morton matched a season-high 12 strikeouts as the Braves extended their winning streak to eight games with a 5-0 win over the Mets on Tuesday night at Truist Park.

“It was incredible,” Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud said after one of Morton’s most impressive starts since joining Atlanta before the 2021 season.

Morton limited the Mets to just three hits over 6 2/3 scoreless innings. He used his curveball with 49.5 percent of his 97 pitches. That stands as the second highest percentage within any of his 314 starts. His approached helped him tally 12 strikeouts for just the seventh time in his career and second time this season.

Funny enough, he actually didn’t love the look of the curveballs he threw during the first couple of innings.

“I took a quick look on the iPad because sometimes [the curveball] feels good and sometimes it feels a little off,” Morton said. “I saw the spin was down and the shape was a little shorter. So, I just started to step on it and really spin it.”

The Braves have won the first two games of this four-game set and moved within 3 1/2 games of the first-place Mets. But to exit this series having made up some ground in the NL East, Atlanta must win at least one of the final two games, during which the club will match up against Max Scherzer (Wednesday) and Jacob deGrom (Thursday).

With Scherzer and deGrom, the Mets would pose a significant challenge to any club they face in the postseason. But it looks like the Braves will also take a couple of proven frontline starters into October. Max Fried has been a top Cy Young Award candidate all year, and Morton has posted a 2.61 ERA over his past 11 starts.

"We as hitters, we live off mistakes,” Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor said. “If he executes, we don't get that mistake. He had less mistakes than the last time we faced him. That's how it goes."

The Mets lost Carlos Carrasco to an oblique strain after two innings on Monday and back spasms forced Taijuan Walker to exit Tuesday’s start after just two innings. The Braves promptly took advantage against R.J. Alvarez, who had been called up from the Minors earlier in the day and was making his first MLB appearance since 2015. Robbie Grossman drilled a solo homer in the third and Olson belted a 443-foot homer to the top of the Chop House restaurant located far beyond the right-field wall in the fourth.

Olson is five homers away from securing his third 30-homer season, and Austin Riley has already reached that mark for a second straight season. With Ronald Acuña Jr. heating up recently, the Braves have plenty of offensive firepower. Their bid to win a second straight title has seemingly been strengthened as Morton has separated himself from the 5.47 ERA he carried into June.

The veteran right-hander has made necessary adjustments throughout the season, and he entered this outing knowing he’d need to take a different approach than he had when the Mets tallied five runs during each of his previous two starts against them this year. His decision to throw more curveballs proved beneficial -- New York whiffed on 11 of 24 swings taken against the pitch.

But Tuesday’s masterpiece wasn’t all about the curveball. Morton kept his fastball out of the top of the zone and watched the Mets whiff with four of six swings taken against his changeup. It was just one of those nights where the 38-year-old veteran was in complete control.

“It’s hard to prepare for somebody when they are throwing 96 and knowing exactly where it is going,” d’Arnaud said. “Then you have the devastating breaking ball and you add his slider, cutter and changeup. He had it all tonight.”