ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Charlie Morton hopes to start the Tampa Bay Rays’ comeback in the AL Division Series against the Astros, two years after pitching Houston to its first championship.
“We’ve leaned on him so heavily, and he’s kind of risen to every challenge, every task we ask,” manager Kevin Cash said Sunday.
After getting Verlandered and Coled by the Astros’ aces, the wild-card Rays trail 2-0 in the best-of-five series, which resumes Monday at Tropicana Field. Summer acquisition Zack Greinke starts for Houston, trying to reach its third straight AL Championship Series.
Morton won Game 7 of the 2017 AL Championship against the New York Yankees, starting with five scoreless innings, then won Game 7 of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers by allowing one run over the last four innings. He beat Oakland in last week’s AL wild-card matchup to improve to 3-0 with a 0.64 ERA in winner-take-all games.
He faced his former team twice during the regular season, winning at home 4-2 on March 29 and losing 15-1 at Houston on Aug. 27.
“You play team like the Astros the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Dodgers, and there’s a mystique and about them. You know that those teams are really good,” Morton said.
“For me, there’s really no mystery with the Astros. It’s just kind of they are who they are to me. I mean, I know those guys pretty well, on and off the field,” Morton said. “I’m well aware of the challenges they present. I know what they’re made of. I’m just going to go out there ... and try to make pitches and challenge them.”
Astros manager A.J. Hinch played down the significance of facing one of his former pitchers in such an important game.