“It’s really just about coming together and finishing strong,” Morton said. “The wins and losses will take care of themselves. We know what’s going on. Right now, it’s really just about making sure we’re tight and we’re going to push through this.”
It looked like the Braves were going to continue showing resiliency by following a four-game losing streak with a fifth straight win. But as they neared completion of a four-game sweep against the National League’s worst team, they suffered through a five-run seventh that halted Jacob Webb’s recent dominance and made the NL East race a little more intriguing.
“We came in here to win the series and we did,” manager Brian Snitker said. “We’d have liked to have won today. We got a great start out of Charlie.”
Morton was in command until the D-backs chased him with consecutive singles to begin the seventh inning. His exit prompted the entry of Webb, who allowed Carson Kelly’s game-tying three-run homer on the second pitch he threw. Two batters later, Daulton Varsho delivered a decisive go-ahead double off the Braves reliever.
Within a span of five batters, the Braves bid adieu to a 4-1 lead and the chance to strengthen their position atop the NL East standings. By the end of the night, after the Phillies' come-from-behind win over the Pirates, Atlanta's lead over Philly in the NL East was down to two games.
As the Phillies spend the rest of this weekend in Pittsburgh, the Braves will be in San Diego for a series that will begin with the resumption of a seven-inning suspended game from July 21. Atlanta is the home team and will be batting in the bottom of the fifth when play resumes with San Diego leading, 5-4.
What happens in Pittsburgh and San Diego over the next three days will set the stage for when the Phillies arrive in Atlanta to begin a three-game series on Tuesday. The Braves' magic number to clinch a fourth straight division title is nine. So the division will not be determined before the start of that series, which could decide the NL East race.
“I don’t see a lot of volatility in that clubhouse,” Morton said. “I don’t see a lot of push and pull. It’s just you show up every day. The guys care about each other and it’s just an easy room to be a part of.”
The healthy environment should make it much easier for Webb to walk away from this uncharacteristically ugly outing. The 28-year-old reliever hadn’t allowed an earned run over 16 1/3 innings going back to May 21. More so, he had allowed just three hits and one unearned run over 10 1/3 innings in September.
Webb had earned the chance to pitch in high-leverage situations like the one he encountered after Morton allowed the two seventh-inning singles. But he was humbled when he hung what became a middle-middle 82 mph changeup that Kelly belted into the left-field seats for a game-tying three-run homer.
Opponents had previously gone 1-for-15 against Webb's changeup in September. They had also whiffed against the pitch 45.5 percent of the time this month.
“Today, I just didn’t have my best stuff,” Webb said. “I was hanging stuff in the zone and that’s what happens. You’ve got to make good pitches out here.”
There shouldn’t be much concern about Webb bouncing back to provide depth to a bullpen that has seen Richard Rodríguez struggle over the past couple weeks. Webb unknowingly pitched in college with a torn ulnar collateral ligament and he had to undergo another elbow surgery after showing great promise for Atlanta in 2019. He also bounced back after having to deal with the fact that he hit the Mets’ Kevin Pillar in the face with a pitch in May.
“Jacob has been through a lot,” Snitker said. “This is probably a minor thing compared to what he has battled throughout his career.”
Likewise, the Braves will have to quickly brush off the lingering effects of this loss. It looked like they were going to celebrate Austin Riley’s 32nd homer and what had the makings to be another great start from Morton. But the seventh inning altered the narrative and ensured intrigue would continue to surround the NL East race.