When Asdrubal Cabrera sliced a double down the left-field line, pulling the Mets in front with one out in the fourth inning, Charlie Morton needed a move. Morton is currently recovering from his second Tommy John surgery in six years, so most teams don’t like to see him scramble for the ball, or at least behind the plate.
The Texas Rangers needed to sweep the Braves, and Morton wasn’t the pitcher they wanted to use for the first two outs of the top of the seventh. The Astros will gladly take either of those options. Morton will never have a chance to hit batsmen again. He’s not the pitcher you want in the middle of the game when you can give it to rookie Luis Ortiz, or select newly signed Adrian Sampson.
Morton’s defensive replacement was first baseman Adam Lind, who – for the second time – doubled to bring in a run in one-out. After Edwin Encarnacion walked, the Braves decided to make a change. The Orioles lefty Brad Brach entered the game to start the seventh, and he promptly faced three straight batters, while Morton watched Lind reach base on a single.
Adam Jones doubled off Brach to make it 5-2, with two down, and Dustin Ackley sent a fly ball deep into the right-field corner. Carlos Gomez slipped and slid into second base ahead of it, but Ackley kept running to the top of the wall. He crashed into it, and his leg became trapped under it. Ackley landed on a patch of ice, suffering a compound fracture of his left tibia and fibula.
Ackley didn’t scream, but Sanchez dropped to his knees and turned to slowly examine Ackley’s leg. His smile faded when he was told Ackley had been injured. Jones’ reaction was simple, too: As he got to first base, he sent a foul ball flying from his glove to the dugout. It landed on the field – because of Ackley, clearly – and then dropped to the ground. The crowd burst into applause, and the whole dugout broke into applause with Ackley on the way to the clubhouse.
Ackley has some issues with his mobility, but the calf injury he sustained last September effectively ended his 2017 season. (The Braves found a good replacement in Nick Markakis, so they didn’t need to bring up another player.)
Andrey Pederson’s solo home run off Brach in the eighth gave the Astros a 9-4 lead, and reliever Cody Martin soon ended the threat by hitting Hernandez into a 4-6-3 double play.
Morton now heads to Dunedin for a few days, as the Nationals finish their spring training games in Florida. We shall see if Morton and the Nationals will be ready for opening day – but if so, it’s not going to be on a humid day in Florida.