The Atlanta Braves will go into the National League Division Series with the best record in baseball, but they’ll be missing one of the key pieces of the starting rotation.
The Braves announced Sunday that right-handed starting pitcher Charlie Morton has been placed on the 15-day injured list due to a sprained finger. The timing means he will miss the entire NLDS, leaving the Braves without one of their dependable, talented starting pitchers as they start the playoffs. Morton is expected to be fully healthy for the NL Championship Series, according to MLB.com’s Mark Bowman.
Morton injured his finger in the first inning against the Washington Nationals on Friday. He felt discomfort on a throw to first base, and while he managed to finish the inning, he was removed from the game and didn’t return.
“It’s such a small piece of my body, and it could have a large impact on how I perform and if I can go,” Morton said Friday of his sprained finger.
This injury to Morton came on the heels of more bad pitching news for the Braves. Left-handed starting pitcher Max Fried was placed on the 15-day IL on Friday due to blisters on his pitching hand. However, the timing of Fried’s injury makes it possible for him to come off the injured list just before the Braves start the NLDS. Morton can’t be on the NLDS roster because he won’t be eligible for activation until after the roster is set.
The Morton news affects the entire National League playoff field in one way or another. Whichever team faces the Braves in the NLDS (which could be the Philadelphia Phillies, Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs or Miami Marlins) could have an advantage in Game 2 or 3 of that series, when the Braves have to start someone who isn’t Charlie Morton. If the Braves are eliminated, the top part of the NL playoff bracket will heave a sigh of relief because they no longer have to face the best team in baseball in the Championship Series.
While losing Morton will hobble the Braves a little, their rotation hasn’t been their main strength this season. It’s their offense that has blown people away, and that’s still fully intact. They have likely NL MVP Ronald Acuña Jr. and MLB home run leader Matt Olson, as well as Austin Riley, Marcel Ozuna and breakout star Michael Harris II. The Braves’ pitching might not break you, but their offense is so punishing that it will make you weep. That’s what teams are facing in the playoffs, even with Morton unable to return until the NLCS.
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