With the 2018 baseball season in full swing now, the Houston Astros have bounced back after a slow start in April. The Astros now lead the Angels in the AL West by a game. With the Mariners a game and a half behind, the AL West has been the best division in baseball so far, with the AL and NL East divisions close behind.
When you think about this Astros team, many superstars come to mind on both sides of the ball; Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, Gerrit Cole, and Justin Verlander, just to name a few. However, one starting pitcher does not come to mind – one who has been one of, if not the, best pitcher in the majors this year – 34-year-old, Charlie Morton.
If you look at the veteran’s career numbers, nothing will jump out at you: 65 wins, 78 losses, a 4.30 ERA, in 194 starts. However, the 2018 Morton has been a completely different pitcher. This year, Morton has is undefeated at 5-0 and a 2.03 ERA in eight starts. His low ERA puts him at 6th in the MLB this year, his teammates Verlander and Cole are 1st and 2nd in that category, respectively.
Charlie Morton has bounced around a few different teams in his career, playing with the Pirates for the longevity of his career. Usually, Morton has been a very consistent pitcher, but not a pitcher that will blow you away with Cy Young-like numbers, as he has had to start off this season. Last season Morton had a very consistent year winning 14 games, with a 3.62 ERA in 146.2 innings pitched.
Even though Morton posted reliable numbers in the regular season, he didn’t truly shine until the World Series last year, where the Astros won their first championship. Morton pitched in two games, one of which he started. Between the two games that Morton pitched during the 2017 World Series, he had a 1.74 ERA and a win in Game 4. In that win he went 7 and a third, struck out seven, and only surrendered on run.
Morton had an outing out of the pen in the decisive Game 7 against the Dodgers. Morton went 4 innings in that game giving up just the one earned run and helped win the final game of the series for this club.
On Saturday, Morton threw a gem against the Texas Rangers. He went seven innings, giving up one run, and racking up 14 strikeouts, a season high. As a 34-year-old, it’s impressive that Morton had that many strikeouts. Usually when pitchers age in the league, they tend to get batter out by contact via ground balls, fly outs, etc., but Morton has been the opposite this season. Saturday was already the third time this season that he has had double digit strikeouts.
Morton has been able to continue that hot streak since the post season and has been a huge factor for this team so far. Since the Astros have the top three ERA leaders to this point in the season, it would be undermining to say this rotation has been outstanding. Once the offense begins to click, expect this to be one of the most dangerous teams in the American League once again.