Who starts G4? 'Everybody's on the table'

Morton, Minter, Ynoa options for potential NLDS clincher vs. Brewers

October 12th, 2021

ATLANTA -- Braves right-hander Charlie Morton has not pitched on short rest in more than 13 years.

But Game 4 of the National League Division Series at Truist Park could be the perfect time to snap the streak. The Braves took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series with a 3-0 victory over Milwaukee on Monday afternoon, and Atlanta can clinch its second consecutive trip to the NL Championship Series with a victory on Tuesday. With that in mind, Morton is a legitimate candidate to start.

If the Braves do not pitch Morton on three days’ rest, they could turn to left-hander A.J. Minter or right-hander Huascar Ynoa.

“Everybody’s on the table,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said after Game 3. “Later on [Tuesday], we’ll kind of narrow it down. We’ve talked to a few guys about some possible scenarios, and we’ll narrow it down later on this evening.”

Morton, 37, last pitched on short rest as a 24-year-old on Aug. 17, 2008, when he was a rookie with the Braves. He followed a 70-pitch effort on Aug. 13, 2008, against the Cubs with a 111-pitch effort (three runs in six innings) three days later against the Giants.

Of course, Morton's results on short rest from more than 13 years ago will have no bearing on the Braves’ decision for Tuesday. But is the fact that he has not pitched on short rest in such a long time a consideration?

“Everybody’s on the table,” Snitker repeated.

Morton went 14-6 with a 3.34 ERA in 33 starts during the 2021 regular season. He dominated the Brewers through six scoreless innings in Friday's Game 1 in Milwaukee, before he allowed a two-run home run to Rowdy Tellez in the seventh.

It was Morton’s only mistake.

“The only one I think to give up runs is Charlie,” Joc Pederson said about the Braves’ starting pitching performances this series. “And I honestly think he was the most dominant one. And that's how crazy of a game it is that we play.”

Minter is an interesting option. The Braves started him in Game 5 of the 2020 NLCS against the Dodgers, when he struck out seven in three scoreless innings in what has marked the only start of his big league career to this point.

Ynoa was 4-6 with a 4.05 ERA in 18 appearances (17 starts) this season. But he had a 6.52 ERA in six starts in September.

Morton makes sense because he is a big-game pitcher who knows how to close out a series. He has gotten the win in four postseason clinchers before: Game 7 of the 2017 American League Championship Series, Game 7 of the 2017 World Series, the 2019 AL Wild Card Game and Game 7 of the 2020 ALCS.

“It would be awesome,” Braves right-hander Ian Anderson said about Morton potentially pitching Tuesday. “His résumé speaks for itself. What he's meant for the team, the mentorship he's given to me and Max [Fried] and all of our starters, and just the calming presence he gives to the whole team has been huge. I think we'd love to have him out there.”