The Atlanta Braves will send veteran right-hander Charlie Morton to the mound as they try to extend their league-leading winning streak to 10 games on Saturday as they host the Pittsburgh Pirates in the third game of a four-game series.
The Braves earned a 4-2 victory on Friday to become the first National League team to win nine straight this season. Atlanta also had a nine-game winning streak last Aug. 13-22 when the club was making a run that culminated in a World Series championship.
“Playing clean baseball,” said Atlanta shortstop Dansby Swanson, who went 3-for-4 with a homer on Friday. “If you want to win consistently, you’ve got to play good, clean baseball. We’re catching it when it comes to us, we’re throwing to the right bases, making the right reads when it comes to baserunning, big hits and obviously the pitching has been tremendous.
“We’re just going to come back and continue this trend.”
Morton (4-3, 5.63 ERA) will be opposed by Pittsburgh right-hander Zach Thompson (3-4, 4.60), who is tasked with stopping his team’s four-game losing streak.
Thompson is coming a scoreless five-inning start against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday, when he scattered four hits and two walks in a 3-0 win. Thompson had a productive May, posting a 2.45 ERA over 25 2/3 innings, including a stretch of 12 straight scoreless innings.
Thompson has made three career appearances, two starts, against the Braves, all while he was with the Miami Marlins last season. He produced a five-inning scoreless start to beat Atlanta ace Max Fried, and he went 1-0 with a 2.13 ERA vs. Atlanta.
Morton has won three straight decisions and is unbeaten in his past six starts.
He beat the Colorado Rockies on Sunday despite allowing four runs on six hits and three walks in five innings. He struck out eight. Morton survived a 41-pitch first inning, then was grazed by a line drive that clipped his pitching hand in the third inning. He stayed in the game to help save the bullpen.
“After that first inning, to go five innings was awesome,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “(After he got hit), he said he wanted to give it a go and he was turning the thing loose. Maybe kind of refocused a little bit.”
Morton has made 303 major league appearances but has never faced the Pirates.
Pittsburgh is getting good results from center fielder Bryan Reynolds, who went 2-for-4 on Friday and is 5-for-9 in the first two games of the series. He is 17-for-39 (.436) with three doubles and one home run in his past 10 games against the Braves.
Pirates rookie Jack Suwinski saw his eight-game hitting streak end on Friday when he came into the game as a pinch hitter and finished with two strikeouts in two at-bats.
“Any time we get our kids in the lineup and they start to play, you start to see glimpses of putting the whole thing together,” Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said. “There has been a process to it. I understand that at times that process is frustrating to people, but (general manager Ben Cherington) has had a plan all along.”
–Field Level Media