Morton shuts down former teammates as Rays win

by Gary Shelton on March 30, 2019 · 2 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Rays

Choi had two RBI for the Rays./JEFFREY S. KING

Saturday, 4 a.m.

This is why they gave him the money. This is why they saved him a jersey. This is what they are hoping for every fifth day.

The competitiveness.

The stability.

The curveball.

The strikeouts.

The leadership.

The opportunity to form a 1-2 punch with Blake Snell at the top of the order.

One game in, and so far, Charlie Morton is a bargain.

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Pham is hitting .429 after two games./JEFFREY S. KING

Morton spread three hits across five innings Friday night, shutting down his former teammates as the Rays beat the Houston Astros, 4-2. It was the home folks' first glance at Morton, who is expected to be a solid no. 2 starter behind Snell.

“I think there is something extra in there," Rays' manager Kevin Cash said. "He’s got so much respect and admiration for those guys for good reason. He pitched well, he pitched really well, and I think they pressured him enough. He got his pitch count up in that one inning, but other than that he was really good.

"He got the breaking ball really throwing well. I thought the fastball came out good. He was locating them both and I think the one pitch he would like to have back is the one that hit Tony Kemp. But other than that, it was a pretty outstanding effort.”

The win evened the record of both clubs at 1-1.

Morton had them at hello. Is this what the fans can expect?

“To shut down the Astros for two runs? That’s probably a fairly tall order," Cash said. "I think that we expect all of the guys, whether it’s Blake, Tyler, Charlie and whoever is pitching in games four and five to give us a chance, and he did today. He came out after five innings and he probably had a little bit more left in the tank. We talked to those guys and said, ‘Look, this first month is going to be a continual build-up process, we want to preserve innings and keep the workload in check early on’.”

Houston took a 2-0 lead in the second, but Tommy Pham singled in Kevin Kiermaier and Ji-Man Choi singled in Mike Zunino and Pham. Yandy Diaz added a run on a solo homer in the sixth.

It was a preview of Morton, who had only pitched a few innings for the Rays in spring training. His rep is a solid one. He also recorded his 1000th strikeout of his career  in the fourth.

“It was awesome, awesome experience," Morton said. "We played a great game all around. Mike (Zunino) did a great job behind home plate. Guys swung the bats, it was awesome, it was fun. The fact that I threw against my former team, I was a little emotional and first start of the season. To get it out of the way and come out with a great team win, it was a big deal.”

Cash felt good about the team's aggressive base running.

“We have realized here that we play the game hard," Cash said. "The guys play the game hard. Even the guys that are new, they recognize that the guys that were here last year and throughout spring training get down the line, put some pressure on the defense and good things can happen. That’s kind of what took place.”

The Rays and Astros play again today at 6:10 p.m. at Tropicana Field. Tyler Glasnow is scheduled to pitch against Collin McHugh.


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