Thursday’s Game Report: Braves 4, Cardinals 0
By Rob Rains
It had been a long time since Charlie Morton started a game against the Cardinals and even longer – more than 10 years – since his last win.
Signing with the Braves as a free agent over the winter brought him back into the National League and gave him the chance to start on Thursday night – the first time he had faced the Cardinals since Sept. 30, 2015 when he was with the Pirates.
“We could have waited a little bit longer,” said manager Mike Shildt.
Morton carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning before Paul Goldschmidt singled with one out and went on to beat the Cardinals for the first time since April 4, 2011 as he and two relievers combined for a three-hit shutout.
It was the fifth time in the last six games the Cardinals scored two runs or less, the 11th time in their last 17 games they have failed to score more than three runs.
The biggest reason for the lack of offense in this game was the performance of Morton.
“There’s a reason he’s had success for a long time,” Goldschmidt said. “He’s got good velo, he can get movement on that fastball if he wants. He pitches up with it to get swings and misses. You’re trying to stay back on the curveball. That breaking ball breaks as much as any curve ball or slider in the game.”
Morton allowed only two baserunners, both on hit batters, before Goldschmidt was able to direct a single into center on a 3-2 pitch with one out in the seventh.
“I was just thinking, ‘try to put something in play,’ Goldschmidt said. “Maybe something would happen. I had already hit two weak ground balls. That was my mentally with that at-bat. You can’t try to do too much. Fortunately I was able to get the hit there.”
Here is how Thursday night’s game broke down:
At the plate: Morton hit Matt Carpenter with a pitch leading off the third and Dylan Carlson with a pitch leading off the fourth … Morton allowed two more hits in the eighth, singles by Carpenter and pinch-hitter Jose Rondon … Tommy Edman was back in the lineup after missing two games with abdominal tightness but was 0-of-4, striking out twice … Nolan Arenado also was back after getting Wednesday off and also was hitless in four at-bats, extending his hitless streak to 17 at-bats … Paul DeJong was 0-of-3 and is now 2-of-22 with one homer since returning from the injured list … Tyler O’Neill’s streak of reaching base ended at 22 games.
On the mound: John Gant, making his first start in Atlanta since he was traded by the Braves to the Cardinals, matched Morton’s scoreless outing until the fifth, when Guillermo Heredia became the first right-handed batter to homer off Gant in 147 plate appearances this season, pouncing on a hanging changeup … The Braves knocked Gant out of the game in the sixth as they increased their lead to 3-0 … Daniel Ponce de Leon gave up the final run in the seventh … Wade LeBlanc made his Cardinals debut in the inning, allowing the runner he inherited from Ponce de Leon to score before getting out of the inning.
Key stat: Morton had started 104 games since his last start against the Cardinals, and his win came after making 220 starts since his last win against the Cardinals. He had been just 2-12 in his career in 18 starts.
Worth noting: The Cardinals announced the signing of LeBlanc before the game. LeBlanc, 36, became a free agent after most recently pitching in Triple A for the Rangers. His last appearance was last Friday, when he worked seven scoreless innings. LeBlanc began this season with Baltimore but has also been with the Brewers and Rangers organizations in the last two months before signing with the Cardinals. To make room for LeBlanc on the roster, Seth Elledge was optioned to Memphis and infielder Max Moroff was moved to the 60-day injured list … Shildt was Edmundo Sosa was “better today than yesterday” after he was hit on his right wrist/hand by a pitch and in considerable pain. Initial X-rays did not show a fracture but the Cardinals were concerned about what more imaging would reveal. “Thankfully way better than it looked,” Shildt said … The Cardinals also announced the signing of right-hander Brandon Dickson to a minor-league contract. Dickson appeared in eight games for the Cardinals in 2011-12 before spending the last eight seasons pitching in Japan. He was assigned to Memphis.
Looking ahead: Carlos Martinez will get the start on Friday night in the second game of the four-game series.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains