'Postseason stud' Morton gets ball in Game 3

October 23rd, 2020

ARLINGTON -- is 5-0 in five postseason starts with the Rays, and Tampa Bay will be hoping he can extend his October dominance when he gets the ball in Game 3 of the World Series on Friday at Globe Life Field.

“He’s definitely a postseason stud,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “Our entire team and organization feels really, really good when we know that we’re lined up, and the next day, we’ve got Charlie on the mound. The track record speaks for itself, but I think it’s the approach and the demeanor that he takes. You don’t see any difference. You don’t see any anxiety. It’s very much a been-there-done-that approach.”

Morton had some struggles in the regular season, especially with decreased velocity, but those issues have been nonexistent in the postseason. Morton’s last start came in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series against the Astros on Saturday, and the right-hander tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings and needed just 66 pitches to get through a dangerous Houston lineup.

The 36-year-old has made three starts this postseason and is 3-0 with a 0.57 ERA. Opposing hitters have a .474 OPS in those three starts. Morton’s increase in velocity with the four-seam fastball and sinker have a lot to do with his success this postseason.

“He has a knack for finding that extra gear,” Cash said. “Throughout the course of 2020, we’d see him come out of the gate hot, then the velo would drop a little bit. He’s built back up, dealing with a bit of an injury here or there, but all that goes by the wayside and he’s just been able to sustain that 95, 96, 97 mph sinker and the wipeout breaking ball. It makes him really special.”

The last time Morton took the mound in a World Series game, the veteran righty recorded the last 12 outs in Game 7 of the 2017 World Series, helping the Astros beat the Dodgers. The Game 3 start could be Morton’s last in the Fall Classic, as he could consider retirement depending on what happens in the offseason. But Morton is only focused on trying to deliver the same results against the Dodgers, this time with his new team.

“Anytime that you’re in the playoffs, it’s special,” Morton said. “I would say being here is obviously an honor, it’s exciting, it’s special, but it’s actually made more special by the people that you experience it with.”

Morton is the only player on the Rays’ roster with World Series experience prior to this season, which is what gives Tampa Bay all the confidence that he will give them the best chance to win. However, Morton said his teammates haven’t asked him for any advice about handling the pressure that comes with playing in a World Series, and he believes that’s good for a core that he believes has a chance to play in multiple Fall Classics.

“I don’t think that they should,” Morton said, when asked if his teammates have picked his brain. “The guys over in the [Dodgers’] clubhouse, the fact that they’ve been here several times in the past four years, the fact that their core group has remained intact ... they look comfortable out there. They look like a team that has been here before. That makes them dangerous, and that’s where we’re trying to get to.”