HOUSTON – At a time when old-fashioned aces were becoming rare, Atlanta lost one of the game’s top postseason performers for the remainder of the World Series.
Charlie Morton, Atlanta’s veteran right-handed starter, broken right fibula After hitting her leg with a sharp kick from Yuli Gurriel’s stick in Atlanta’s second kick 6-2 victory Over the Houston Astros in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday at Minute Maid Park.
X-rays done at the stadium confirmed the fracture, and Morton was ruled out for the remainder of the series. Atlanta said Morton, 37, will be ready for practice next spring, but won’t be able to help the team win the 2021 World Series.
“It’s a dagger that we lost him in Game 1,” said Atlanta catcher Travis d’Arnaud, “but he’ll still be there with us, supporting us and continuing to teach us everything he learned along the way and his career.”
After the ball hit Morton, he ran to protect the first base from a noticeable hitch and remained in the game. He continued to hit Chas McCormick and then started a line drive off Martín Maldonado to finish the hit.
Between hits, Morton received some medical attention, and Atlanta Manager Brian Snitker noted that the pitcher’s initial X-ray was negative. Snitker said Morton threw a ball against a wall in the tunnel leading to the bunker and declared he was ready to return to the game. He said running hurts more than throwing.
“When that X-ray came back, it didn’t show anything,” Snitker said, adding, “Well, he got one after he left the game and it hurt.”
On the third, Morton hit Jose Altuve, but he landed awkwardly after taking the final hit, reaching the point where Gurriel’s liner hit.
Minutes later, Morton limped off the field and finished his season at 16 courts after the ball hit him. He was replaced by AJ Minter, who took the win comfortably.
“He hit a man with a broken leg,” Minter said. “Pretty remarkable.”
Snitker suggested that the fracture may not have developed until Morton returned for the third strike.
“I’m not a doctor or something, but I don’t know if he was hurt when he did that,” the manager said, referring to the downs recorded in the second half. “I mean, it was stressful, but it felt good.”
Atlanta would be allowed to replace Morton on their World Series roster with another pitcher, but lost one of the shooting team’s mainstays and one with notable success against the Astros.
The normally reliable Morton went 14-6 for Atlanta with a 3.34 earned run average during the regular season and made 33 starts in the major leagues. In 14 major league seasons, two of them with the Astros, Morton established himself as a post-clutch pitcher and performed particularly well against his former team.
Prior to Tuesday’s game, Morton had a 3-0 record with a 0.57 microscopic ERA against the postseason Astros. Two of those wins came in 2020, when he took the field for the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Championship Series.
This year he kicked off Games 1 and 4 of a division series against Milwaukee and Game 3 of the National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Tuesday was the 16th start of the postseason.
Morton also had a strong influence on his teammates and will likely continue to provide support and advice to his fellow pitchers for the remainder of the series. Atlanta’s Game 2 starter, Max Fried, described Morton as a calming influence at a press conference Tuesday before Game 1.
“Especially when you get into really emotional games, especially when it comes to playoff games,” Fried said, “being able to look at him in these circumstances really helps.”
Morton pitched for Houston in 2017 and 2018, winning Game 7 of the 2017 World Series with four spectacular hits in relief. He made a strong impression as a formidable teammate.
“It’s the best thing you can have,” said Houston’s second baseman Altuve before the series began. “She’s so good. She’s amazing. I have only good things to say about her.”
Morton’s final pitching line of the 2021 season was a two-and-a-half hit where he allowed a hit and didn’t run. He walked two and hit three, but what will never show in the box score is whether he recorded his last three outs with a broken leg.