Morton in command to lead 2nd straight shutout, sweep of Yankees

Righty strikes out 10 and walks one to rebound from odd seven-walk outing

August 17th, 2023

ATLANTA -- Braves starter Bryce Elder said it was pretty cool to watch Charlie Morton as he took wildly effective to another extreme while pitching around seven walks over five scoreless innings against the Mets on Friday.  

Morton enjoyed a much cooler experience as he tallied his second start with double-digit strikeouts this season while helping the Braves complete their first three-game sweep of the Yankees in franchise history with a 2-0 win on Wednesday night at Truist Park.  

“When Chuck is on and he has that curveball going, it’s fun to watch,” Braves reliever Kirby Yates said. “It’s put your feet up and just enjoy, because it’s wicked, man. He throws 95 to 96 [mph] with a curveball from hell.” 

Eddie Rosario’s two-run homer in the second inning provided the necessary support for Morton, who scattered four hits, recorded 10 strikeouts and issued just one walk over six innings. He became the first pitcher since Blake Snell in 2018 to tally 10 or more strikeouts after issuing seven or more walks in his previous start. Snell walked seven Astros on June 19 and struck out 10 Nationals on June 25.

The last Braves pitcher who accomplished this was Juan Pizarro, who walked seven Cubs on June 28, 1959, and then struck out 11 Pirates on July 3. 

“I’m not going to compare outings, because I just don’t think that’s a good idea,” Morton said. “I think you compare larger bodies of work and where you are. I’m not a seven-walks-a-game pitcher and I’m not a zero ERA pitcher. I’m just going out there to do my job. I think I just physically felt better out there tonight.” 

Five days after sweating through his unique scoreless effort against the Mets, Morton experienced little trouble against the Yankees, who scored just three runs during the three-game set. All of those runs were tallied during Monday’s series opener.

The Yankees whiffed on 50 percent (12 of 24) of their swings against Morton’s curveball. His 12 whiffs on the offering are tied for the second most he's generated in a start this season, per Statcast.

Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton both whiffed against two-strike curveballs heading to the opposite batter’s box in the sixth inning.

“He does a great job with that four-seam/curveball mix he has,” Judge said. “In the past couple of years, he’s added that little cutter in there and changeup. I think he just kind of kept guys off balance all night, kind of in between, where you’re sitting one pitch and get another one.”

Starting-pitching woes hindered the Braves after the All-Star break, when they split their first 24 games. But the tide has turned as they have won six of their past seven games. Atlanta’s starters have combined to allow just eight runs over 42 2/3 innings within this span. Expendable fifth starter Yonny Chirinos was responsible for six of those runs over just 4 2/3 innings on Sunday.

“We had a little bit of a tough run with the pitching, and now it’s solidified again,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I said earlier in the day, if they weather the storm and stay in there, there’s going to be something good on the back end.”

Morton’s patience was certainly tested over the past few weeks. The 39-year-old hurler entered Wednesday with 22 walks to 21 strikeouts over his past five starts. He actually entered Friday’s walk-fest having posted a 7.32 ERA over his past four starts, with 17 strikeouts to 15 walks over 19 2/3 innings in this stretch.  

“If you’re driving a manual and you’re just learning to drive, you’re thinking about where the turn signal is, where your right foot is, where your left foot is, where your eyes and where your hands are,” Morton said. “It’s just not a good place to be. It’s kind of like that with pitching. If you’re thinking about your delivery too much, that’s where you can get to. I won’t say that’s where I was. But I was starting to get there.”