Hi friends. Here’s how I see baseball on this Wednesday, October 27, the day after game 1 of the World Series. The third inning of last night’s game was, with a nod to Mr. Dickens, the best of times and the worst of times. The top half provided the offensive push that led to the Braves’ 6—2 win, but disaster struck in the home half, leaving the Braves without one of the few starting pitchers they could count on.
If you just read the score, a 6—2 Braves’ win doesn’t look like anything special. It was special in several ways. First and foremost, the Braves hadn’t won a World Series game in a quarter of a century. Greg Maddux baffled the Yankees in game 2 of the 1996 World Series, and the talking heads in New York lost their collective minds. They reckoned without David Cone who righted the ship in game 3, after which the Yankees won the next 3. While the Braves were always contenders, the next time they reached the World Series, they were swept in 1999 by the Yankees. Between World Series wins, the Braves had moved out of Atlanta Fulton County Stadium, moved into and out of Turner Field and taken up residence in the suburbs north of Atlanta. Between the two events, America came to know Monica Lewinski, Al Gore, George W. Bush, Barak Obama, Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Johnny Carson and Dick Clark died. Nobody knew who Tom Brady was in 1996, and we hadn’t heard of Madison Bumgarner who has come and gone in between times. The Braves’ broadcaster Joe Simpson wasn’t doing radio in 1996. Last night, the 69-year-old veteran did color commentary on the Braves’ radio broadcast. His play-by-play partner, Ben Ingram was a kid of 16 in 1996 at a high school in Mississippi. This was his first year on play-by-play after a decade as the Braves’ studio host, and what happened? He got to call the World Series.
Ingram was as prepared as a man could be when the first pitch came in, and it’s a good thing he was. The Braves’ Jorge Soler hit the third pitch out of the park-the first time in the history of the World Series that the first hitter in game 1 had launched one out of the lot. The Braves added another run in the first and 3 more in the third, highlighted by a 2-run home run off the bat of Adam Duvall.
This is where things got entirely too interesting for the Braves. Back in the second inning, Yuli Gurriel had lashed a line drive off pitcher Charlie Morton’s leg. Later, it was said that the line drive left the bat at 102 MPH. Somehow, Morton kept going. Announcer Ben Ingram said he seemed to be OK. Morton struck out Chas McCormick and got Martin Maldonado to line to Freeman at first to end the second inning. God only knows what might have happened if the Astros had gotten a couple of men on, because though we didn’t know it, Morton was pitching on borrowed time. What I’ve only found out since I began writing this is, Morton was given x-rays during the Braves’ top of the third. They came back negative.
The Braves put up a 3-spot in the third to make it 5-0. Only Charlie Morton knows how much worse the pain in his leg got during the Braves’ turn at bat, and while he was getting the x-rays. Jose Altuve, the scourge of American League pitchers led off the last of the third. On a 2-2 count, Morton struck him out on what announcer Ingram described as a “Beautiful curve ball, the best one tonight.” Roughly 12 seconds after the pitch hit the catcher’s glove, Morton was doubled over with his hands on the ground to keep him from falling full length. The trainer was coming on the run, and Morton was gone.
Nobody upstairs could figure it at first. Eventually, at least up in the radio booth, the announcers saw footage from a different angle of Gurriel’s liner that hit Morton’s leg. They maintained that Morton showed no ill effects at first, but after striking out Altuve, he could go no further. The bad news was confirmed in the top of the fifth. Morton’s right fibula was broken. This is one of the two long bones above your ankle. The tibia is a much bigger bone and takes more of the impact when you move. I can’t imagine how Morton continued even as long as he did. Had his leg given out in the second inning, with the score just 2-0, I would be writing an entirely different story. The Astros didn’t use Morton’s injury as a motivating force. They never got closer than 5-1, after which each team scored late in the game which left the final score at 6—2 Braves.
As I write this, I found out Tucker Davidson is coming in to replace Morton on the roster. He’s a lefty reliever who’s only thrown 20 innings at the big league level this year. Morton will have to rehab if he hopes to pitch next year. Considering he’ll be 38 by then, that’s no guarantee. He’s been here before though. He’s had two hip surgeries, Tommy John surgery early in his career, and most recently a torn hamstring in 2016. He’s no stranger to pain and hasn’t shrunk from it in years past. If he has anything left, he’ll be in Braves’ camp next February.
As for the more immediate concern, the Braves and Astros get back at it tonight in Houston. The Braves will turn to Max Fried on the hill while the Astros trust this vital game to Jose Urquidy. While the Mazatlan native didn’t get the job done earlier in the postseason, he was 8—3 with a 3.62 ERA during the regular season. He won game 4 of the World Series 2 years ago against the Nationals.
Fried is somebody the Braves have been counting on since 2019. In the regular season, he’s 40—18 for his brief career with a 3.34 ERA. He was 17—6 in 2019 and 14-7 in the regular season just completed.
While I haven’t written a full theme concerning the World Series until now, I’ve posted in various groups what I thought might happen. While I’d prefer the Braves to win, I believed from the start that Houston would prevail. I believe this even more now. I feel Houston has easily the better lineup of the two. Even if Ronald Acuna JR. hadn’t gotten hurt, I don’t see Atlanta matching up against Guriel, Altuve, Correa, Bregman, Alvarez and Tucker. Before Morton was injured, I thought the pitching was about even. Now, Morton joins Acuna and pitcher Mike Soroka on the sidelines hoping for the best.