Charlie Morton is a long way away from a brief, unsuccessful spell with the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Tampa Bay Rays starter in the last four years has quietly and unassumingly made his way into the conversation of being one of the top postseason pitchers of his generation, first with the Houston Astros before joining the current American League champions.
Over 12 postseason appearances (11 starts), Morton is 7-2 with a 2.84 ERA. He’s been even better since joining the Rays before the start of the 2019 season, going 5-0 while allowing just two earned runs in 25.2 innings of postseason work.
Now, he’ll get the call for Game 3 of the World Series on Friday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers after his Rays tied things up on Tuesday night behind three RBI apiece from Brandon Lowe and Joey Wendle.
But the 2017 World Series winner with the controversial Astros and the successful postseason hurler isn’t taking his role as the only Ray with prior Fall Classic experience to develop into an outspoken leader in the Tampa clubhouse.
“No, and I don’t think they should,’’ Morton said. “I think the recognition that the game is still the game. The environment is going to impact you mentally, if you let it, positively or negatively. I think that is the biggest thing.’’
He’ll be facing a Dodgers team that has made the World Series for the third time in the last four years — and have fallen short every time, including to Morton’s Astros three years ago. They’ve only gotten stronger since then, adding the likes of Mookie Betts to pair in the outfield with the emerging superstar and reigning NL MVP, Cody Bellinger.
“The guys in the other clubhouse, the fact that they have been here several times in the past four years, that their core group has remained intact. The leaders on the team have been there for a few years. They look comfortable out there. They look like a team that has been here before and that makes them dangerous,’’ said Morton. “That’s where we are trying to get to. The young guys, especially, on this team should be trying to get to. Not only being here this year but trying to stay relevant in the game as an organization. Go back to the playoffs every year with a chance to win it.’’
Tampa’s Game 2 World Series win was just their second-ever victory in the Fall Classic, which came in their only other appearance in baseball’s championship round back in 2008 against the Phillies, which they dropped in five games. It’s providing new heights for a franchise that has had to fight not just the big clubs of the AL East, but through their small-market tendencies that have brought about an emergence of analytics.
One of their lone big-money signings was Morton last year, who is taking the mound with fans in the stands for the first time this year at Globe Life Park in Texas, which is where the Dodgers played all their postseason games in.
“I don’t think talking to me about it [will help], especially because the playoffs have been weird this year. [With] no fans, it is different. I think they have an advantage because they have been playing here, a tight series with the Braves and staying in the same hotel the whole time,’’ Morton said. “Those are things, to me, that matter, not talking to some guy who has been to one World Series.’’
First pitch is at 8:08 p.m. ET on FOX.