Rays No. 2 starter Charlie Morton came into tonight’s outing sporting career bests in ERA (2.64), FIP (2.86) and K% (30.4%). But with that has also come a higher than normal BB% (11.4%). Morton looked to limit his free passes.
For the Marlins, breakout sensation Caleb Smith took the hill, coming into his start as one of the National League’s best pitchers thanks in part to a league leading 37.5 O-Swing% (swings and misses on pitches outside the strike zone).
The Rays opened the scoring in the 2nd on a ‘tremendous’ blast by right fielder Avisail Garcia:
It was the longest home run hit by someone not named Giancarlo Stanton in Marlins Park, as well as the longest home run by a Rays hitter in the Statcast Era.
And that would be the only scoring on both sides until the sixth. Nick Anderson entered the game to relieve Smith with men on first and second. It was Garcia again, lining a single to left, scoring Tommy Pham.
The Rays added two more in the later innings. First on a bases loaded walk by Kevin Kiermaier in the 8th and next on a bases loaded infield single by Garcia in the 9th, who went 3-for-4 on the night, driving in three of the Rays four runs.
No walks for Charlie
Morton more than accomplished his self assigned mission to limit bases on balls. He and new Rays catcher Travis d’Arnaud looked in sync the entire game as he needed only 82 pitches to get through his six shutout innings, striking out 5.
It was a different mix for him this time out — while Morton still relied on the curveball, he only went to it 24% of the time. This is dialed back quite a bit from his nearly 35% curveball usage coming into tonight’s contest. Instead, the sinker was his weapon of choice, and he went to it just under a third of his total pitches.
A relief tandem of Emilio Pagan, Diego Castillo and Chaz Roe combined to finish the job, each providing scoreless innings.
With tonight’s Yankees-Orioles rainout, they increase their division lead by a full game.