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Braves hope Charlie Morton bounces back vs. slumping Cubs

Sportsnaut
Apr 20, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA;  Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Charlie Morton (50) pitches in the first inning of the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta veteran Charlie Morton will try to regain form when the Braves host the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday in the second game of a three-game series.

Morton (1-2, 6.32 ERA) will face Mark Leiter Jr. (0-1, 11.05 ERA), who is back in the major leagues for the first time since the 2018 season.

The Braves won the series opener on Tuesday 3-1 and handed the Cubs their sixth loss over the last seven games. The Braves won five of seven against the Cubs last year.

Morton has lost his last two starts and was beaten by the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 20 when he allowed four runs on 5 1/3 innings. He walked three and allowed two home runs.

“I never worry about a guy like Charlie,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “As long as he’s physically healthy, then you don’t worry about him. They’re going to go through games where it’s not hitting for them, you know, and then they always bounce back.”

Morton has made 15 starts against the Cubs, going 4-6 with a 5.27 ERA. His last win against Chicago came on April 21, 2021, when he allowed five runs in 5 1/3 innings.

Leiter is pitching in the major leagues for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery in March 2019. He is the son of former big league pitcher Mark Leiter and nephew of Al Leiter.

Mark Leiter Jr. was rocked in his first start, allowing seven runs in 3 1/3 innings, but he looked better in his most recent outing on April 21 when he limited the Pittsburgh Pirates to two runs in four innings.

Leiter has made one career start against the Braves, a loss in 2017 when he was with Philadelphia. He allowed three runs in 6 2/3 innings that game with six strikeouts.

Atlanta continues to struggle to hit with runners in scoring position. The Braves were 0-for-3 in that situation on Tuesday and are hitting .228 (29-for-127) with runners in scoring position. Twenty of the 29 hits have been singles.

The Braves will be without outfielder Eddie Rosario for as long as 12 weeks. He is suffering blurred vision and swelling in his right retina and will undergo a laser procedure. Rosario was placed on the 10-day injured list on Tuesday.

Atlanta recalled right-handed pitcher William Woods from the minors. Woods is 0-1 with a 7.04 ERA in 7 2/3 innings split between Triple-A Gwinnett and Double-A Mississippi.

The Cubs are awaiting the return of shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who continues to be bothered by right shoulder soreness. He remains at the team’s training camp in Yuma, Ariz., and will resume live batting practice later this week.

“I don’t think it’s a humongous setback,” Chicago manager David Ross said. “But it is a little bit like, let’s pause and still build.”

Nico Hoerner has started 15 games for the Cubs at shortstop and is batting .327 with eight RBIs. Jonathan Villar, signed primarily to play third base, is now the backup at shortstop.

“The challenge is you’ve got an elite defender that we’re missing,” Ross said. “So sometimes that’s where you have to weigh your options on where your fly-ball-to-ground-ball pitchers might be different.”

–Field Level Media