HOUSTON (AP) — One of the things the Houston Astros like best about Charlie Morton is his even-keeled demeanor.
The veteran starter never gets too high or too low, a quality that was on full display on Saturday night after he set a career-high with 14 strikeouts in a 6-1 win over the Texas Rangers.
He never cracked a smile as he spoke slowly, measuring every word. After several attempts to get him to talk about his big night, he was finally asked if he was even happy about his performance.
“No,” he said simply. “I try not to get too far ahead of myself and I try not to let outings dictate how I feel about myself because I think that’s a way to get in trouble. If you let a bad outing get to you too much or you let a good outing get to you too much it’s not a good thing. So I’ll do what I normally do and prepare for the next start.”
Evan Gattis, Brian McCann and Carlos Correa all homered to back Morton up a night after the Astros were shutout in a 1-0 loss in the series opener.
Morton (5-0) yielded four hits and a run without a walk to lower his ERA to 2.03 and extend his career-long winning streak to eight games dating back to last season.
McCann’s solo homer gave Houston the lead in the fourth and Gattis added his one-run homer in the next inning after driving in Houston’s run in the third with a single.
Correa padded the lead with a soaring two-run shot to straightaway center field to make it 5-1 with one out in the eighth. The Astros tacked on another run in the eighth when McCann singled and Jurickson Profar committed an error that allowed Yuli Gurriel to score from first.
Morton’s previous career-best was 12 strikeouts, which he accomplished twice previously, with the last time coming earlier this season against the Rangers. It’s his third game this season with at least 10 strikeouts and he’s fanned 62 in seven starts this season.
“He made it very challenging for our guys tonight having the big fastball,” Texas manager Jeff Banister said. “He was able to get the fastball where he wanted to. He sunk it as well, but the curveball tonight was pretty special.”
Texas starter Doug Fister (1-4) allowed four hits and three runs in 6 1/3 innings for his fourth straight loss.
Morton retired the first eight batters he faced before Ronald Guzman’s solo homer to the seats in right field with two outs in the third inning. Delino DeShields followed with a double, but Morton struck out Shin-Soo Choo to end the inning.
The Astros didn’t get a hit until a double by Josh Reddick to start the third. The single to center field by Gattis scored Reddick to tie it at 1-1. Gattis then stole his first base since August 19, 2016 and just the third of his career, but he was left stranded when Fister retired the next three batters to end the inning.
McCann’s homer to the bullpen in right-center came with two outs in the fourth to put Houston up 2-1.
Gattis pushed the lead to 3-1 with his solo shot with one out in the fifth.
Morton had retired 12 of the previous 13 batters when Profar doubled with two outs in the seventh. The Rangers came away from that inning empty-handed when Morton fanned Rougned Odor for the third out.
While Morton wouldn’t acknowledge his strong outing, his manager A.J. Hinch had no trouble raving about it.
“I thought he was good,” Hinch said. “Is that the biggest understatement of the night? He was great. It was fun to see him finish his outing with such conviction making one last really good breaking ball pitch to Odor with the most stress that he had the whole night. Needless to say, he was pretty locked in with his breaking ball and that was a good matchup for him when he can demonstrate that he can throw in the strike zone and a few chases below. Very, very good.
Houston center fielder George Springer was out of the lineup on Saturday after being hit on the left elbow by a 92 mph fastball from Cole Hamels in the series opener. Hinch said Springer’s bruised elbow was sore on Saturday and wasn’t sure when he’d return, but added that he doesn’t expect the injury to land him on the disabled list. … Correa was plunked just above his left hip to start the fourth inning, but was OK and remained in the game.
THEY SAID IT
Hinch on the rare steal by Gattis: “I don’t know when the next one you’ll see of his. But if you missed tonight’s you better try to see it on the highlight reel.”
Rangers: Matt Moore (1-4, 7.71 ERA) will start for Texas in the series finale on Sunday. Moore will be pitching on extended rest after allowing nine hits and five runs in 5 2/3 innings but not factoring into the decision in a 7-6 win over Detroit on Monday.
Astros: Dallas Keuchel (2-5, 3.53) is scheduled to start for Houston on Sunday. He got his second win in his last start by allowing five hits and just one run in eight innings of a 16-2 win over Oakland.
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