HOUSTON – Charlie Morton threw 16 pitches with a broken leg.
Morton had just spun a 2-2 curveball past Jose Altuve for a called third strike when he stumbled and started to fall. The 37-year-old Atlanta Braves right-hander braced himself with both arms and grimaced as he popped back up, then rubbed at his right ankle.
Morton’s World Series was over soon after it started.
His right fibula was fractured when Yuli Gurriel hit a 102 mph one-hopper off his leg leading off the second inning, a ball hit so hard it ricocheted to first baseman Freddie Freeman for an out.
By the time Morton faced Altuve leading off the third, the leg had started to swell and adrenaline no longer could overcome the pain.
Head athletic trainer George Poulis and manager Brian Snitker came to the mound, and Morton walked back to the dugout with a slight limp.
Atlanta’s bullpen took over for the rest of a 6-2 victory over the Houston Astros in Tuesday night’s World Series opener.
By the fifth inning, the Braves said Morton’s next mound appearance was expected to be during spring training.
Morton pitched the final four innings and got the win for Houston in its Game 7 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2017 World Series. A calming, respected clubhouse presence, he was looking forward to a chance to take center stage in his former ballpark, before opponents he considers friends.
“I’m going to feel some things when I get on that mound,” he said Monday. “I don’t think there’s any way not to.”
Morton threw 44 pitches and allowed one hit, Michael Brantley’s one-out single in the first. He struck out three and walked two.
Home runs by Jorge Soler and Adam Duvall powered the Braves to a 5-0 lead, putting Morton in position to get his first Series win since 2017.
Albies looks up to fellow second baseman Altuve
Atlanta Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies looks up in a way to Altuve, even though the former American League MVP for the Houston Astros is a couple of inches shorter.
The 5-foot-8 Albies said so many people had told him he couldn’t do the job because he’s small, and he points out what the 5-6 Altuve has accomplished.
“The first time I saw him, we said hi to each other. He’s actually a little smaller than me. I thought, ‘If he can do it, why can’t I do it?’ He’s a guy I’ve always watched the way he plays. He plays hard,” Albies said. “He’s been one of the examples I always watch to do the same, try to do the same or even better.”
The 24-year-old Albies is an All-Star for the second time this season, and led the National League with 189 hits in 2019.
Altuve, who is 31, is a seven-time All-Star who led the American League in hits four consecutive seasons (2014-17), leading the majors twice in that span. He was the AL MVP in 2017, when the Astros won the World Series.
Starting Game 2
Astros right-hander José Urquidy was a rookie when he pitched five scoreless innings to win Game 4 of the World Series against the Washington Nationals two years ago.
“That game I was a little nervous. I mean, in the first inning, I think I was a little nervous,” Urquidy said Tuesday through an interpreter. “But during the second inning, I started to feel more confidence.”
In his only postseason start this year, Urquidy allowed six runs (five earned) in only 1⅔ innings in a 12-3 loss against Boston in Game 3 of the AL Championship Series.
He will start Game 2 of the World Series on Wednesday against Braves left-hander Max Fried.
“It means a lot for me, for sure. It’s going to be a big game for me, for the team. I know that I have to win,” Urquidy said.
“My last outing was for sure bad, I know, but there’s good days and bad days. I’m excited to compete, and I know that a lot of people are watching me for sure.”
Fried is 1-1 with a 3.78 ERA in three starts this postseason.
“Max is the natural to go No. 1 in Game 2,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.
Still part of the club
Ronald Acuña Jr. is getting to experience the World Series with the Braves, even though the star right fielder hasn’t played since tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament on July 10.
The Braves also brought along young right-hander and former first-round pick Mike Soroka (torn right Achilles tendon) and veteran catcher Stephen Vogt (right hip).
“We wanted everybody that had a part of this,” Snitker said. “I’m really glad these guys can be here to experience this with their teammates. Ronald had a big hand in this until he was hurt. I want them to experience it because they are part of this club.”
Acuña hit .283 with 24 homers and 52 RBIs in 82 games before getting hurt. Snitker said it is good that he can at least be with his teammates at the World Series.
“It’s like when you come here and you experience it, you do that, I want to remember that,” Snitker said. “I want to remember that feeling when we get to spring training, how hard it is to get here, how hard you have to work and be consistent every day in order to put yourself in this position.”
The retractable roof at Minute Maid Park was closed for Game 1 but is expected to be open for Game 2 on Wednesday. … Atlanta hadn’t played the Astros in the postseason since the 2005 National League Division Series, eight years before Houston moved to the American League. But the Braves were at Minute Maid Park last October, and swept their NL Division Series against Miami in three games when the playoffs were played in neutral site bubbles because of the pandemic. … The Astros scored 36 runs in the AL Championship Series, and set an MLB postseason single-series record by scoring 27 of those with two outs.
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