Morton, McCann sink Fish
Starter effective through six; catcher hits three-run homer
ATLANTA -- Whenever it's seemed like Charlie Morton's fragile psyche has incurred a devastating blow, the rookie right-hander has responded with an outing that proves that he has both the determination and talent to enjoy a potentially productive Major League career.
Throughout his short time in the Majors, Morton has admitted several times that he constantly battles self-confidence problems. While his words and body language often substantiate this claim, he's regularly shown the ability to rebound from some of his worst starts by producing some of his best.
For five innings at Turner Field on Thursday night, Morton was as good as he's ever been at the Major League level. With help from a Brian McCann three-run homer and some impressive sixth-inning defensive support, the rookie right-hander's effort helped the Braves claim a 4-2 win over the Marlins at Turner Field.
While claiming their first home series victory since the All-Star break, the Braves saw Morton face the minimum through five innings and limit the Marlins to two runs on four hits in six innings. Last Friday at Busch Stadium, the 24-year-old rookie right-hander allowed 10 of the 14 batters that he faced to reach safely.
"He was awesome tonight," McCann said. "When he throws strikes and attacks the zone like that, he's tough. He's got the stuff."
Fortunately, while winning for the first time at Turner Field, Morton had plenty of support. McCann's fifth-inning three-run homer gave him a comfortable lead that was preserved by Brandon Jones and Kelly Johnson during a potentially-damaging sixth inning.
Jones went to the left-field wall and made a leaping catch that robbed Hanley Ramirez of a potential three-run homer. Luis Gonzalez followed with a double to right that would have scored two runs if Johnson hadn't received Jeff Francoeur's pinpoint throw and then made one of his own to the plate to retire Paul Lo Duca.
"Two perfect throws," Cox said. "It took those kind of throws to get him."
It also took some assistance from Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell for Morton to straighten his delivery to the plate. McDowell showed his young pitcher pictures that demonstrated the straight plane Adam Wainwright, an ex-Braves hurler who is lanky like Morton, uses as he strides toward the plate.
After getting himself realigned during a few bullpen sessions, the 6-foot-4 Braves rookie came out and showed the control that was lacking when he issued five walks during the 57-pitch effort against the Cardinals. Proving more aggressive and consistent against the Marlins, he issued just two walks and threw 50 of his 75 pitches for strikes.
"Charlie looked terrific tonight," Cox said of Morton, who was 0-6 with an 8.18 ERA in his previous seven career home starts. "He threw a ton of strikes going into the sixth inning."
Before things got a little hairy, after Dan Uggla and John Baker hit consecutive doubles to begin the sixth, McCann drilled Anibal Sanchez's first-pitch fastball into the seats to account for his first homer since Aug. 9 and increase his team's lead by three runs, to 4-0.
Just before McCann homered down the right-field line, Sanchez intentionally walked Chipper Jones with one out and Josh Anderson on third base. Anderson, who was promoted from Triple-A Richmond on Wednesday, reached safely in three of four plate appearances and recorded a stolen base.
This marked the 11th time Jones has been intentionally walked this season, and five of those walks have been signaled by Brewers manager Ned Yost and Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez, who both were formerly Braves coaches.
This was also just the second hit -- both homers -- that the Braves have recorded in the 11 plate appearances that have followed intentional walks to Jones. Mark Teixeira, who was traded to the Angels last month, accounted for the other long ball.
"After they walked Chipper, it felt good to get a hit for the team," said McCann, who entered the game with five hits in his previous 32 at-bats. "A lot of weight was lifted off my shoulders right there."
Morton, who won for just the second time in his past eight starts, was nearly perfect through the first five innings. After allowing Luis Gonzalez's fourth-inning, one-out single, he got Jorge Cantu to ground into an inning-ending double play.
Following the consecutive doubles to begin the sixth inning, Morton complicated matters with a five-pitch walk to Lo Duca. But with the defensive assistance provided by Brandon Jones and Johnson, the inning didn't prove disastrous, and the Braves were able to enjoy winning a home series for the first time since July 6.
"It seems like two months since we won any series," said an obviously relieved Cox.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.