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Braves turn to scuffling Charlie Morton vs. Brewers

Sportsnaut
May 7, 2022; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson (7) tags out Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Tyrone Taylor (15) to end the game at Truist Park. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Veteran Atlanta right-hander Charlie Morton will try to regain his form on Sunday when the Braves host the Milwaukee Brewers in the rubber game of their three-game series.

Morton (1-3, 6.85 ERA) will be opposed by Milwaukee left-hander Aaron Ashby (0-2, 2.33). The Braves won Saturday’s game 3-2 to end Milwaukee’s four-game winning streak.

Morton has been struggling. He has lost three of his last four starts and has a 7.85 ERA over that stretch. In his last start on Tuesday, Morton allowed five runs (four earned) in 5 2/3 innings against the New York Mets.

His lack of success has left him confused.

“There were still signs last year that I could still be a dominant pitcher because I would still get swings and misses,” Morton said. “Now it seems like more of those at-bats have turned into long at-bats that result in walks or hits and my pitch counts are just driven up.”

Morton has made 16 career starts against Milwaukee, going 4-8 with a 4.15 ERA.

He faced the Brewers once during the 2021 regular season and absorbed a loss, despite giving up only two runs in six innings on Aug. 1. He lost the first game of the NLDS to the Brewers last year, giving up two runs in six innings.

Atlanta manager Brian Snitker did not express concern.

“You’ve got to look at the baseball card. It will be there,” Snitker said.

Ashby will be making his seventh appearance and third start. He pitched in relief Tuesday against Cincinnati and threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings. His last start came April 27 at Pittsburgh, when he allowed one run on one hit, five walks and six strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.

“I though his stuff was excellent,” manager Craig Counsell said. “It was exciting to see. It’s special stuff for sure.”

Ashby has never faced Atlanta during the regular season. He made two relief appearances against the Braves in the 2021 NLDS, posting a 6.75 ERA in 2 2/3 innings. That includes a blown save in the deciding fourth game of the series.

The Brewers will be without outfielder Andrew McCutchen, who was placed on the COVID list after testing positive shortly before Saturday’s game. McCutchen reported symptoms earlier Saturday. McCutchen was hitting .240 with two homers and 14 RBIs.

“He came in, got tested and just went back to the hotel,” Counsell said. “He’s just going to stay at the hotel and as he feels better, we’ll figure out what to do.”

McCutchen was replaced in left field by Tyrone Taylor and replaced on the roster by utility man Mike Brosseau, who had been optioned on Sunday.

Atlanta right fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. has reached base in all eight games since returning from knee surgery. He has homered in both games of the Milwaukee series and has a 22-game on-base streak, dating to last season, the best in the National League.

Milwaukee closer Josh Hader needs two strikeouts to reach 500. He earned his 107th career save on Friday and moved into second place on the club’s all-time list, trailing only Dan Plesac (133). Hader has 11 saves in 11 tries and became only the fifth pitcher to earn a save in their first 11-plus games of a season.

–Field Level Media