World Series notes: Rays chase Game 7, one more for Morton

Sports

Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Charlie Morton reacts after giving up two runs against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the third inning in Game 3 of the baseball World Series Friday, Oct. 23, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Charlie Morton started the day Tuesday not knowing if he will pitch in a Game 7 of the World Series with his Tampa Bay Rays facing elimination against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The right-hander also didn’t know if he would pitch again at all, since Morton has already indicated he might retire if the Rays don’t pick up the $15 million option on his contract for next season. Morton turns 37 next month.

“I’ve been thinking about it,” Morton said before Game 6, with Tampa Bay trailing 3-2 in the Series. “Will it be the last time I put on a uniform? Will it be the last time I put on a Rays uniform? Hopefully not. It just goes back to the situation, what it’s looking like this offseason into next year.”

If there is a Game 7, LA ace Walker Buehler would oppose Morton in a winner-take-all finale of the neutral-site Fall Classic at the home of the Texas Rangers on Wednesday night.

It would be a rematch of Game 3, won 6-2 by the Dodgers when Buehler struck out 10 and allowed one run in six innings. Morton had his worst outing in two postseasons with the Rays, giving up seven hits and five runs in 4 1/3 innings.

But Morton has Game 7 experience in the World Series that Buehler lacks. Morton pitched four scoreless innings for Houston to finish the 2017 finale at Dodger Stadium in a 5-1 victory that clinched the championship for the Astros.

Morton acknowledged it will be different going into the final day of the season knowing he was starting a Game 7 in the World Series. Lance McCullers Jr. had the task for Houston three years ago.

“I woke up not even thinking that I was going to be in that game,” said Morton, who beat Houston in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series this year to send Tampa Bay to the World Series for the second time. The other was in 2008.

“So I didn’t have to go to bed that night and wake up all day and just stew about it. I saw Lance just going to walk to get some coffee that morning, and I was thinking, ‘Dang, man, I wonder what it’s like to know that you’re about to start Game 7 of the World Series?’ Experience, it gives you some peace of mind.”

ANOTHER FAST START

When Tampa Bay’s Randy Arozarena extended his record with his 10th postseason homer in Game 6, it marked the fifth straight Series game with at least one run in the top of the first.

That’s a record, breaking the previous mark of four in the 1932 World Series. That sweep by the New York Yankees of the Chicago Cubs featured Babe Ruth’s called shot on a home run.

Of the previous four in this Series, the team that scored in the top of the first went on to win three times. The exception was Tampa Bay’s 8-7 win in Game 4 when the Rays scored twice with two outs in the bottom of the ninth on a crazy sequence triggered by Brett Phillips’ RBI single. Arozarena scored the winning run on an error by catcher Will Smith.

SHUT THAT DOOR!

There were plenty of questions for players from both teams about what they did on the final off day of the season, what the discussions were like and whether they got their mind off baseball before Game 6.

The answer was easy for Dodgers second baseman Kiké Hernández.

“That we hope the roof is closed because it’s freezing,” Hernández said.

Indeed, temperatures barely reached 40 Tuesday, a third consecutive day of misty conditions with intermittent rain and drizzle in the Dallas area. The forecast was the same for Wednesday, so there was little question the roof would be closed for the remainder of the Series.

GOOD OL’ TEXAS BBQ

The Rays brought barbecue in on the day off to the Dallas-area hotel where both teams are quarantined. The Dodgers have been in the same hotel for most of the month. The Rays have only been there a little more than a week, but that’s long enough for manager Kevin Cash.

“The hotels have been great, but room service and all those meals can get a little boring sometimes,” Cash said. “The hotels have done a good job of setting up game rooms where there’s simulated golf pool tables, ping pong tables. And it felt like, you know, any one of the limited off days that we’ve had in this postseason bubble.

“So, yeah, I like the barbecue a lot.”

SPINNING A YARN

Morton went on for seven minutes about spin rates after getting asked how that information helped turn a mediocre, injury-plagued career into one with a strong postseason resume.

The two-time All-Star started by saying he found out he had one of the top five spin rates for curveballs by accident when he was watching MLB Network.

Morton said it never really sunk in that he should throw the curveball more until he went to Houston, and then on to Tampa Bay, where he said he threw it about 50% of the time last season.

The final answer on using the data? Actually, it was mostly a “no” because of the fastball. One of the people who studies analytics for the club recently told him his four-seam fastball “outperforms” the data.

“I don’t know if that gave me confidence or took it away,” said Morton, whose four-seam fastball averaged 93.4 mph in 2020 after three consecutive years at 94.7 or higher.

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