Veteran right-hander Charlie Morton, who has won nine of his past 11 decisions, will be on the mound on Wednesday night as the red-hot Atlanta Braves try for a three-game sweep of the host Miami Marlins.
Morton, 37, is aging like a fine Pinot Noir. Since 2017, he is 58-22. For the rest of his career, he is just 46-71.
This year, Morton is 11-4 with a 3.49 ERA. He allowed 10.2 hits per nine innings last year, although a sore shoulder and a subsequent drop in velocity had a lot to do with those statistics. That rate is way down to 6.9 this season.
Morton, who is on a run of three straight quality starts, is 8-5 with a 4.10 ERA in 17 career appearances against the Marlins. In Miami, he is 4-2 with a 3.41 ERA in six starts.
With a baffling assortment of off-speed pitches, Morton could give the Marlins trouble yet again on Wednesday, and the Braves’ stellar lineup is there to support him.
The Braves, who beat the Marlins 12-2 on Monday and 2-0 on Tuesday, will go for that sweep on Wednesday. Atlanta has won five straight games and 12 of its past 14 to take over first place in the National League East.
Besides Morton, the Braves will rely on sluggers such as Adam Duvall (27 homers), Austin Riley (26 homers), Freddie Freeman (26), Dansby Swanson (24) and Ozzie Albies (22).
“It’s exciting to play with these guys,” Morton said.
The Marlins will counter Morton with lefty Jesus Luzardo (4-5, 7.52).
Miami acquired Luzardo on July 28 in exchange for center fielder Starling Marte, who was sent to the Oakland Athletics.
Luzardo, a 23-year-old who grew up in South Florida, has electric stuff, but he has struggled with his command.
In three starts with the Marlins, he has a 9.20 ERA, averaging 6.8 walks per nine innings. His career walk rate is relatively small at 3.4.
He has never faced the Braves, and he has just one quality start this season — way back on April 25 in a loss to the Baltimore Orioles.
Miami has battled the Braves hard this year, going 7-8. But the Marlins have been held down to just those two runs in two games this series, on solo homers by Jazz Chisholm and Isan Diaz.
Indeed, the Marlins, out of playoff contention, are continuing to experiment with their personnel. Jorge Alfaro, who has been a catcher for virtually his entire career, has played left field recently.
On Tuesday he played first base, and it’s expected he will either catch or play left field on Wednesday. Alfaro has yet to catch Luzardo, and that is a possibility for Wednesday’s game.
So far, the only Marlins catcher to work one of Luzardo’s games is rookie Alex Jackson.
As for Alfaro, Marlins manager Don Mattingly simply wants his bat in the lineup.
“I thought he looked really good (at first base),” Mattingly said. “He made some really good decisions, using the back step (on a grounder by Albies).
“Jorgie is really athletic. This adds to his versatility.”
–Field Level Media