Charlie Morton hurled five solid innings on Friday night, while the Tampa Bay Rays scratched across three two-out runs, en route to a 4-2 win against the Houston Astros on Friday.
Morton took the mound against his former team who he most recently played with for the past two seasons. The right-hander was amped up, hitting 97.9 mph on his fastball when he fanned George Springer for his first punch out of the season, setting the tone for the night.
From there, Morton threw two scoreless frames before Houston broke out on top in an erratic third by the hurler. Tony Kemp was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and then promptly swiped second. After George Springer struck out, Jose Altuve walked on a close full-count offering. Morton was able to strike out Alex Bregman, yet Michael Brantley lined a double down the right-field line, plating the only runs the Astros would score on the night.
His swing and miss breaking ball was exactly what we talked about before the game. He’s tough when he can get it in the strike zone, he got a little erratic with it when we put some pressure on him but he was able to come back and make some really good pitches. I’ve seen that quite a few times.— A.J. Hinch, manager of the Houston Astros
However, the lead was short-lived, as Tampa Bay answered with three runs in the bottom of the third to take the lead against Gerrit Cole, who had struck out five of the first six batters.
Kevin Kiermaier got things started with a base hit into shallow left-field. After Willy Adames lined out to right, Mike Zunino reached on Aledmys Diaz’s throwing error — his second error in as many days. Austin Meadows moved Kiermaier to third on a deep fly-ball to center before Tommy Pham lined an RBI single to right, putting the Rays on the board and sending Zunino to third. Finally, Pham swiped second, ahead of Ji-Man Choi’s go-ahead single to center, scoring both base runners.
The rally put Morton on the right side of the ledger. The right-hander went on to retire six of the last seven batters he faced — a series that began by fanning Yuli Gurriel, marking his 1,000th career strikeout. Morton relied heavily on his curveball — 34 thrown, 20 strikes 59% strike rate, 6 whiffs, 30% SwStr — with which he collected seven of his eight strikeouts.
The veteran allowed just three hits.
He looked good, about right where we expected him to be, very sharp. He looked good, about right where we expected him to be, very sharp. He’s a good pitcher. He’s worth every dollar of that, $30-million contract.— Gerrit Cole, former Astros teammate
Diego Castillo followed with two scoreless innings, leaning heavily on his upper 90’s fastball (5 thrown, 3 strikes) to set up his slider (14 thrown, 13 strikes, 4 whiffs). Castillo allowed two singles in his first inning of work, although he coaxed a 4-6-3 double play out of Josh Reddick, which was punctuated by a pretty glove flip by Daniel Robertson.
Then in the bottom of the inning, Tampa Bay extended its lead when Yandy Diaz hit a bullet — albeit a wall scraper — to centerfield for his first homer as a Ray.
Cole, who hadn’t given up more than four runs in any start in 2019, allowed four on Friday night.
Castillo followed with a perfect seventh inning.
Chaz Roe took the mound in the eighth, and after walking Springer, he got the next two batters to ground out. Roe gave way to southpaw Adam Kolarek, who was brought in to face the left-handed hitting Michael Brantley. Kolarek needed just one pitch to get Brantley to ground out to end the frame.
Finally, Jose Alvarado took the mound as the de facto closer. Alvarado was able to get the first two outs on six pitches, yet he allowed a single to pinch-hitter Tony White, then walked another pinch-hitter, Robinson Chirinos. But with two on and two out, southpaw hitter Tony Kemp promptly fell behind Alvarado before he swung through a filthy slider to end the game.
Rays win, 4-2.
The New What Next
Tyler Glasnow (1-5, 4.20 ERA) will get the start in the third game of the season, pitching opposite of Collin McHugh (6-2, 1.99 ERA) in a battle of righties.
Gerrit Cole finished fifth in the AL Cy Young race after going 15-5 with a 2.88 ERA and 276 K’s across 200-1/3 innings of his first season with Houston. Cole performed to a .198 opponents’ average and a 1.03 WHIP, leading the AL by averaging a 12.4 K/9 as a starter. Cole has faced the Rays just twice in his career, going 0-1 with a 3.46 ERA across 13 total innings of work. He, however, was great in his lone start at the Trop, throwing six innings of three-run ball (just one earned) while fanning five last season. In 2018, he relied primarily on his 97 mph swing-and-miss four-seam fastball, while also mixing in an 89 mph hard slider, and an 83 mph worm-killer curveball. Key Matchups: Tommy Pham (7-12, 2 2B, HR, 3 RBI), Daniel Robertson (2-3), Joey Wendle (2-5, 2 RBI)
Tyler Glasnow finished 2018 with the Rays, posting a 1-5 record and a 4.20 ERA/4.44 FIP across 11 starts, although he displayed his potential on the mound. He is projected to improve on his numbers in 2019, and the matchup against Houston will be the first chance for
You can read about the series in our preview, while the starting lineup is below.
Rays 3/30/19 Starting Lineup
- Meadows LF
- Pham DH
- Choi 1B
- B. Lowe 2B
- Diaz 3B
- Wendle SS
- Garcia RF
- Kiermaier CF
- Perez C
- Glasnow RHP