Mor­ton de­liv­ers again as Rays beat A’s, take over first in AL East

Lodi News-Sentinel - - SPORTS - By Marc Top­kin

ST. PETERS­BURG, Fla. — The kid put on a pretty good show, Tan­ner An­der­son post­ing five ze­roes for the A’s in his first big-league start be­fore the lone mis­take that cost him two runs.

But the old mas­ter was bet­ter, Char­lie Mor­ton work­ing an­other seven score­less as the Rays rolled to a 6-2 win over Oak­land and took over first place in the Amer­i­can League East at 41-24 when the Yan­kees were rained out.

Af­ter weav­ing into and out of trou­ble in the first and third in­nings, Mor­ton set­tled in to re­tire the fi­nal 14 A’s he faced.

Though, to be fair, he had some help, Tommy Pham mak­ing a pretty good leap­ing catch in left field to end the fifth, and cen­ter fielder Kevin Kier­maier mak­ing an even bet­ter one for the fi­nal out of the seventh.

Also, with a trio of two-run homers.

Bran­don Lowe, who launched two to deep cen­ter field on Sun­day in Bos­ton, hit a two-run shot to left in the sixth off An­der­son on Mon­day, his 14th of the sea­son. And then Kier­maier re­minded he’s more than just a pretty glove, blast­ing a two-run shot to cen­ter in the seventh. JiMan Choi made it three-pack with a two-run homer in the eighth.

With the win, Mor­ton im­proved his record to 8-0 and lowed his ERA to 2.10. He also ex­tended the ma­jors’ long­est ac­tive un­beaten streak to 21 starts, hav­ing last lost on Aug. 17 with the Astros.

Mor­ton started the game al­low­ing a bloop sin­gle, got an out on a hard-hit liner and hit the third bat­ter be­fore com­ing back to strike out Khris Davis and Stephen Pis­cotty.

Mor­ton got one out in the third, then al­lowed an­other sin­gle to Mar­cus Semien and back-to-back five-pitch walks to load the bases. Pitch­ing coach Kyle Sny­der came out for a chat. Then Mor­ton found what­ever he was look­ing for, get­ting dan­ger­ous Davis swing­ing again and Pis­cotty on a weak grounder.

Af­ter that, he didn’t al­low any­thing else. Just called up Colin Poche and Chaz Roe com­bined to get the fi­nal six outs, though Roe gave up back to back hits as the A’s scored twice.

Mor­ton took the mound, of course, op­ti­mistic he would do well.

So why was he talk­ing af­ter his last start in Detroit, an­other in a string of re­ally good ones, about be­ing pes­simistic?

Es­sen­tially, that’s just his na­ture, and a per­spec­tive shaped by years of strug­gles and set­backs early in his ca­reer.

“I try not to let good per­for­mances and good out­comes af­fect my men­tal­ity with volatil­ity,” he said in ad­vance of the start. “I don’t want to ride the roller­coaster.

“I’ve done that in years past. I had a good one, I had a bad one, you’re al­ways judg­ing your­self on your last per­for­mance and you’re not hav­ing a long-term out­look.”

The out­look has served Mor­ton well, es­pe­cially in re­cent years. And he it cer­tainly has worked of late, as he went into Mon­day’s game with a 20-game un­beaten streak, stretching back to last Au­gust with the Astros, and 7-0, 2.30 with the Rays.

“I re­ally try to stay as even keeled as pos­si­ble,” he said. “And I think be­ing semi-pes­simistic is the best way to go about it.”

An­der­son en­joyed a happy home­com­ing in his first ma­jor­league start, with his par­ents, girl­friend and buddies among 40 or so fans root­ing him on.

The Tampa Plant High prod­uct, traded form Pitts­burgh to Oak­land in the off­sea­son, was called up from Triple-A by the short-armed A’s and stepped up, de­liv­er­ing five shutout in­nings be­fore al­low­ing the tworun homer to Lowe.

An­der­son, 25, grad­u­ated from in 2011, then played four sea­sons at Har­vard while also earn­ing a his­tory of science de­gree. He pitched in six games last sea­son for the Pi­rates, and spent this sea­son at Triple-A Las Ve­gas, go­ing 4-4, 6.26.

Man­ager Kevin Cash said he ap­pre­ci­ates Mor­ton’s vet­eran per­spec­tive.

“He’s even-keeled and I think he’s the same all the time,” Cash said be­fore the game. “He ob­vi­ously likes to go out there and com­pete and wants to com­pete at a re­ally high level, which he’s done for us, but you watch him in be­tween starts and even when he’s on the mound it’s the same guy.

DIRK SHADD/TRI­BUNE NEWS SER­VICE

Tampa Bay Rays first base­man Ji-Man Choi (26) at­tempts to make the catch and get the tag down on Oak­land Ath­let­ics short­stop Mar­cus Semien (10) as he dives back to first base on a line drive in St. Peters­burg on Mon­day.

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