Charlie Morton picked up where he left off last season and the offense showed some life for the Atlanta Braves as they completed a 7-6 win over the Cincinnati Reds.
The Braves jumped out in front in the second. Adam Duvall and Eddie Rosario worked back-to-back walks off of Reds starter Reiver Sanmartin. Travis d’Arnaud then reached on what was ruled as an infield single, a ball that kicked off of Mike Moustakas’ glove at third. Duvall scored on the play to give the Braves a 1-0 lead.
Dansby Swanson walked to load the bases and Orlando Arcia followed with a sacrifice fly to center that scored Rosario to make it 2-0.
That brought up Ozzie Albies, who lifted a fly ball to center that Nick Senzel made a sliding catch on. Confusion reigned initially as the umpires ruled it as not a catch and the Reds tagged out d’Arnaud on the bases. The Braves challenged the play and it was confirmed as a catch. However, Matt Olson struck out on three pitches to strand the runners.
Charlie Morton picked right back up where he left off in 2021. Morton faced the minimum through three while recording four strikeouts.
The Braves blew the game open in the third against Sanmartin. Austin Riley worked a leadoff walk and then moved up on a single by Marcell Ozuna. Adam Duvall followed with a double off the bricks in right center to make it 3-0. Eddie Rosario grounded out for the first out and that was all for Sanmartin, who exited with runners at second and third. Jeff Hoffman entered and was greeted by a two-run single from d’Arnaud that extended the lead to 5-0. After a walk to Dansby Swanson, Arcia followed with a single to right to bring home a sixth run. Albies then grounded into the shift at short but beat the relay throw at first to prevent the double play. Swanson scored on the play to push the lead to 7-0.
Morton retired the side in order in the fourth to extend his streak to 12 straight men sat down, but Joey Votto led off the fifth with a single to break up the perfect game bid. Tyler Stephenson flew out to left, but Nick Senzel doubled off the base of the wall in right to put runners at second and third with just one out. Mike Moustakas followed with a sacrifice fly to right to get the Reds on the board. Morton then got Kyle Farmer to ground out to Swanson at short to end the threat.
Morton walked Jake Fraley to begin the sixth and he advanced to second on a ground out by Jonathan India. That was the end of the night for Morton, who gave way to A.J. Minter. Tyler Naquin flew out for the second out but Minter then walked Tommy Pham and hit Votto to load the bases. Stephenson followed with a single off a sliding Riley’s glove, with two runs scoring to cut the lead to 7-3. Minter came back and got Senzel to ground out to end the inning.
Morton was in control from the start, allowing just two hits and two runs over 5 1/3 innings. He walked one and struck out five while throwing 78 pitches.
Will Smith and Tyler Matzek tossed scoreless innings in the seventh and eighth. Kenley Jansen made his Atlanta debut in the ninth and things got interesting. Jansen allowed a leadoff walk to Votto and a single to Stephenson. He then struck out Senzel and got Moustakas to bounce into a fielder’s choice. However, Kyle Farmer followed with a soft single to right to cut the lead to 7-4 and Jake Fraley followed with another single that scored two to cut it to 7-6. Jansen avoided disaster, though, as India flew out to Duvall to end it.
The series will continue Saturday with the Braves scheduled to receive their World Series rings before the game. Kyle Wright will get the start for Atlanta while the Reds will go with right-hander Vladimir Gutierrez.