Charlie Morton held the Houston Astros to two runs, while giving up two walks and five hits in six innings and striking out eleven batters. However, it was not enough. Relievers Dylan Lee and Jackson Stephens gave up two runs in the eighth and one in the ninth respectively, giving the Astros the 5-4 win in the series finale Sunday afternoon, avoiding the sweep. The Braves took two of three from this series in what was informally referred to as a 2021 World Series rematch.
After being pulled from the game Friday night for shortness of breath, Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez went 2-for-5 with two RBI on his return to the lineup Sunday.
Houston starting pitcher Jose Urquidy picked up the win, his twelfth of the season. He gave up 2 runs on five hit while striking out six. Closer Ryan Pressly earned his 25th save of the season.
Prior to the game, it was announced Atlanta Braves designated hitter Marcell Ozuna would play in left field Sunday and was booed after striking out twice. Ozuna was cited for failing to maintain lanes and driving under the influence at 4:00 AM Friday morning in Norcross. Also, Ozuna was clocked traveling 90 miles per hour in a 35 mile per hour zone. Ozuna refused a breathalyzer test and after posting a $1,800 bond, the embattled Ozuna played for the first time since the incident.
“He’s on our team right now, ”Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s a member of our team. We’re going to play him as needed.”
Ozuna was booed mercilessly during his first at-bat. He struck out twice in both plate appearances. Currently, Ozuna is hitting .213 with 20 home runs.
In 2021, the Sandy Springs Police Department said they saw Ozuna grab his wife by the neck and throw her against the wall and struck her with the cast on his injured left hand. He was charged with felony aggravated assault and strangulation but was reduced to misdemeanor battery and simple assault.
Major League Baseball suspended him for 20 games retroactive to last season.
Charlie Morton is aging gracefully with the Braves
As for the game, Morton’s performance was not lost on the mind of Snitker. Morton, 38, did not factor in the decision. However, in 23 starts, Morton has tallied 153 strikeouts, averaging 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.
“I’ve said all along, all year, the ball’s coming out of his hands pretty good all year and he’s hitting on all cylinders,” Snitker explained. “That curveball, he’s probably going to pitch until he’s 60 with that thing. “I mean, really, it’s an equalizer for him to have the ability to do what he does. And I always say of guys like that: [Justin] Verlander, those guys that pitch a long time credit the dedication they have to what they’re doing.”
Speaking of Verlander, Morton referred to the Astros pitcher and Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals, as ‘throwbacks.’ Examples of two pitchers that are pitching at a high level in their late 30s and in Wainwright’s case, in his 40s.
“Those are the guys that are going to throw 180, 190, over 200 innings in an era where you have to be an absolute stud to throw that many innings.” Morton explained. “Because you have to be able to pitch. They’d give a guy eight, nine, $10 million to go out and throw 200 innings with a four and a half ERA.
And then really, guys like that now they’re kind of going five, six innings and the guys that are the studs that are out there like like those guys are going six, seve, eight, and maybe nine innings a game like Sandy [Alcantra of the Miami Marlins] is doing now. You know guys like that they’re, you know, in there other guys too. I mean, Max [Fried] does a great job working deep in the games. But really it’s like you have to do both.”
The Atlanta Braves won five of seven games during this important homestand and have won eleven out of their last thirteen games overall. As it stands, the Braves are three games out of first place in the National League East.
What’s next for the Braves
Currently, the Atlanta Braves are 52-21 since June 1, the best record in the majors. In the next ten games, the Braves travel to Pittsburgh for three games against the Pirates, play three against National League central leaders, the St. Louis Cardinals, and will come home to play three games against the Colorado Rockies.
Meanwhile, the NL East leading New York Mets will have a two-game Subway Series against the New York Yankees, four games against the Colorado Rockies and three games against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“I was looking at this homestand a week ago tonight and thought, ‘this will be a rough sledding here for seven days’ and we survived that,” said Snitker. “We did really good. We put ourselves in position to win a tough game today too after getting down. So I’m very happy with how we responded to the seven games that we just played.”