Charlie Morton and Zach Wheeler were as advertised. Will Smith was (nearly) as feared. The slightly better team won by just enough. What are you expecting, a detailed recap of a seven-hit game?
If I were JonathanF, of course, I’d spend the next seven paragraphs describing a complex statistical analysis I performed for fun on a SQL database of all of the recorded statistics in baseball history to elucidate a particular key point in the game — maybe an deep dive into “Hibernation Mode,” and if I had his acumen, I might even be able to explain to you why the hell the Braves, who put together a three-hit, two-run rally in the third, went to sleep for the rest of the game, mustering just four baserunners: two walks, one single, and one via error.
Meanwhile, Morton was superlative. He wasn’t exactly underrated in baseball the last few years, among baseball fans in the know: he was an All-Star in Houston in 2018, and again in Tampa in 2019, when he finished third in the Cy Young vote. But somehow, he’s flown somewhat under the radar this year, I think, maybe even among Braves fans.
Tonight, he went seven innings. He allowed two hits to begin the game, and after that he basically shut the door for good, yielding just a single and two walks while recording the next 21 outs. His 10 strikeouts give him 213 for the year. That’s the most recorded by a Braves starter since Javier Vazquez struck out 238 in his magical 2009 campaign, and it’s literally one of only four Atlanta 200-strikeout seasons since 2000, along with Vazquez in 2009, Smoltz in 2006, and — I bet you could win a bet on this question in just about any bar in America — Foltynewicz in 2018.
In fact, if you dial the clock back a bit further, you find that Morton has the seventh-highest season strikeout total in Braves franchise history:
- Smoltz, 1996, 276
- Niekro, 1977, 262
- Niekro, 1978, 248
- Smoltz, 1997, 241
- Vazquez, 2009, 238
- Smoltz, 1992, 215
- Morton, 2021, 213
He is a special pitcher.
Of course, Will Smith loaded the bases in the ninth. This time, he gave up a leadoff walk followed by a scorching liner that Heredia fortunately corralled, but wasn’t so lucky on the next batter, when Rosario boofed a flyball for a two-base error. An intentional walk and a sac fly later, the lead was cut in half, and then Freddy Galvis struck out to seal the win.
I just transcribed this verbatim from Snit’s post-game press conference:
“Will did a great job. Will’s done awesome. The last three days, this guy’s done nothing but answer the phone and deliver. I can’t see anything but positive in what this guy’s been doing. His stuff’s probably as good today as in the last four days he’s thrown.”
Methinks he doth protest too much, of course, but that’s why the guys love the skipper. I can’t blame Snitker publicly backing his guy, because he believes that you keep the dirty laundry in the clubhouse. I can only blame Snitker for not giving himself any room whatsoever to leave his options open. But as long as the team scrapes a victory out of the detritus of Will Smith’s leadoff walks and hanging sliders, it’s hard for me to be anything but ecstatic that the magic number keeps decreasing.