Charlie Morton and Gerrit Cole go toe to toe — Morton comes out on top.
ST. PETERSBURG – There was a lot of firsts tonight for Rays pitcher Charlie Morton. Not only was it his 2019 season debut, it was also his debut with the Rays and his first time facing his former team, the Houston Astros.
“I think there is something extra in there, he’s got so much respect and admiration for those guys for good reason. He pitched well, he pitched really well, and I think they pressured him enough,” Kevin Cash in regards to Morton’s starts.
In what was an impressive debut, Morton went five innings allowing three hits, two earned runs and striking out eight. Morton threw a total of 85 pitches, 54 for strikes. His curveball was more than effective accounting for six swinging strikes on his 33 pitches, according to baseball savant.
During the game, Morton recorded his 1000th career strikeout in the fourth inning striking out Yuli Gurriel swinging. Morton said he was aware of the upcoming achievement when I asked him about it.
“I did. It had been a while since I kept track of where I was, but I knew for some reason I needed somewhere around five or six. When I struck out Yuli, I was pretty sure that was 1000 [strikeouts].”
Offense gets to Cole in the third
In what ended up being a wacky third inning, the Rays offense posted three runs, all unearned to Gerrit Cole. The inning started with a Kevin Kiermaier blooper to left field. With one out already recorded, Mike Zunino reached on a throwing error, sending Kiermaier to second base. Tommy Pham recorded a two out RBI single in which Zunino went first to third, allowing Pham to steal during Ji-Man Choi‘s at bat. Choi came up clutch with a two out, two RBI single giving the Rays a 3-2 lead at the time and the Rays never looked back.
Pham’s single extended his on-base streak to 34 games, the longest active streak in all of baseball.
As for Cole, his stuff was electric. Cole went six innings allowing only one earned run and striking out ten Rays. His only earned run of the night was…
In the bottom of the sixth inning, another newly acquired Ray, Yandy Diaz, made an impact hitting his first home run of the season to straight away center field. According to StatCast, the home run traveled 420 feet with an exit velocity of 112.2 mph and a 17 degree launch angle. In layman’s terms, that ball was freaking crushed.
Bullpen was lights out
While the Rays are testing out a new lighting system for the roof at Tropicana Field, the bullpen tonight was lights out. They combined to throw four scoreless innings sealing the team’s first victory of the young season.
Handing out some hardware
Before the game tonight, the 2019 Al Lopez Award was awarded to Brandon Lowe. The Al Lopez Award is awarded to the rookie who had the most outstanding spring training. Lowe crushed, literally, three home runs while leading the Grapefruit League with eight doubles and ranking second with 17 RBI.
Catcher Mike Zunino also received some hardware. Zunino was the recipient of the 2018 Wilson Defensive Player of the Year award.
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