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