Veteran pitcher Charlie Morton took the mound for Atlanta in the first three innings of the World Series opener. Morton was making the third World Series start of his career Tuesday night when a pitch rocketed back off the bat of the Astro’s hitter, Yuli Gurriel. That ball bounced back at Morton swiftly and struck his leg, but Morton decided to stay out and continue pitching.
In the second inning, Morton seemed healthy. He ran to first base to record the out against Gurriel. The Braves’ veteran then issued a slick sequence of pitches to strike out the next batter, Chas McCormick. Finally, the second inning ended with a lineout from Martín Maldonado, and Morton received medical attention in the dugout.
Brian Snitker, the head coach for the Braves, told reporters that Morton initially seemed okay to play after the second inning. His x-rays didn’t show any broken bones, and the 37-year-old hurler told Snitker that he felt comfortable going back out to throw.
“That X-ray, when he went back out, didn’t show anything,” Snitker told reporters. “Well, he got one after he came out of the game and felt hurt.”
In the third inning, Morton struck out Jose Altuve before landing badly on his right leg. He limped off of the field after throwing 16 pitches on his injured leg. A second examination revealed that he had suffered a broken right fibula. The exact timing of when the break occurred is unclear.
Initially, some sports commentators suggested that Morton’s leg broke from the initial impact of the comeback ball from Gurriel’s bat. However, the first x-rays between the second and third innings likely didn’t miss such an injury. Instead, the comebacker probably caused hairline fractures that worsened as Morton worked in the second and third innings. The final pitch to Altuve is likely the moment that resulted in Morton’s broken fibula.
The Braves know a lot about losing their star players to injuries in the 2021 season. On July 10, the team’s hard-hitting outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. suffered a torn ACL that ended his season. Mike Soroka, the team’s ace young pitcher, tore his Achilles tendon during the 2020 season. Ongoing issues with his Achilles have completely kept him off the field in 2021.
Now, without Morton, the team faces an uphill battle against the hard-hitting Astros. The club’s bullpen assembled a gem of a relief game, stitching together over six innings of quality throwing. In the end, the Braves defeated Houston 6-2 in Game 1. Losing Morton will come back to haunt them as the series goes on, however.
Braves pitching staff will likely rely on Morton’s calming influence from the dugout, even if he can’t take the mound himself. Max Fried, who will start for the Braves in Game 2, pointed this influence out to reporters during a press conference Tuesday. “Especially when you go into really emotional games, especially when it comes to playoff games, to be able to look to him in these circumstances is really, really helpful.”