A night like this is rare for Charlie Morton, but this is baseball. And in this sport, anything can happen.

The Braves were rolling, but in Wednesday’s 7-1 loss to the Cubs, they had one of those inevitable clunkers. They are destined to occur in a 162-game season, and Braves fans can often look past them.

The team is still 26-14. Morton is probably the least of anyone’s concerns. And the Braves still won the series. Atlanta has won six of its last eight games since that rough West Coast trip.

Five observations:

1. The night began on a weird note: Morton watched his first pitch – a four-seam fastball away to Mike Tauchman – sail over the wall.

What unfolded next might be best described as unfortunate.

And one of Morton’s quotes perfectly summed up the night.

“When you let guys put the ball in play,” he said, “you kind of live and die by where the ball goes.”

The Cubs scored three runs in the first inning. They sent all nine men to the plate. Morton wasn’t sharp, but it could’ve gone differently.

After the leadoff homer, Morton gave up a double – it would’ve been a single but it deflected off Morton and rolled into right field. Then he allowed a soft single into left field on a ball below the strike zone.

After that, one run scored on a force out. Morton eventually walked a batter and gave up an infield single on a ball third baseman Zack Short dove to stop.

Morton hit a batter with the bases loaded, which gave the Cubs a 3-0 lead.

“I gave up a home run on the first pitch, so it’s not like it’s all luck, right?” Morton said. “I don’t know. I look back at those pitches and I’m like, none of them are in the middle of the plate. Some of them are even balls or below the zone. I think they put some good at-bats together, especially running up my pitch count.”

2. Morton allowed four runs – three earned – in three innings. It might as well have been four earned runs, as Morton’s errant pickoff allowed one more run to score, but pitchers’ errors still result in unearned runs.

Before Wednesday, Morton had only allowed three or more earned runs while pitching three or fewer innings once since 2015: April 27, 2022, also against the Cubs.

These outings – at least three earned runs in three or fewer innings – are rare for Morton. In 360 career starts, he’s only had 14 of them. He’s only had two of them over his last 203 starts.

“Oh, I didn’t know that,” Morton said. “I don’t know. I think I just look at how I threw the ball, and what can be improved and what not. I look at the pitches that I made, I look at what happened. It’s like, what could I have done differently? How far off am I? And two, you don’t want to take one outing and one inning and say, ‘Oh, something’s really wrong here.’”

At the same time, Morton said, nights like this serve as examples of why teams value strikeouts so much.

“I look back and I’m like, ‘Man, every now and then, it doesn’t hurt to go for a strikeout, it doesn’t hurt to go for swing and miss,’ just because guys are trying to do damage,” he said. “ … I’m not gonna dwell on how I threw the ball. I’m not gonna kick myself (about) where I threw the ball. I’m very disappointed in putting the team behind – three runs, four runs, it’s not good.”

Before this start, Morton had posted a 3.14 ERA over his first seven outings of the season.

“He’s been great,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “God, he’s been throwing as good as he has since he’s been here, honestly, until tonight. A couple things happen his way in that first inning, regardless of the home run. I mean, after that, just some ground balls finding guys or whatever, who knows, he may right the ship and end up and go five, six innings.”

3. Ray Kerr is grateful to be in the majors.

“I just love being out there, honestly,” he said. “This is a dream come true, honestly. Every time I step out on the field, I always look around, soak in where I’m at and get to work.”

This perspective is understandable for someone with Kerr’s journey.

In 2022, he told Nevada Sports Net that after two college seasons, he quit baseball, moved home and cleaned up popcorn at a movie theater. Then he worked at 7-Eleven. He missed being on the mound, he told the outlet.

Does his journey give him extra motivation?

“It gives me a lot of pride to know where I came from and knowing where I’m at now,” he said after Wednesday’s game. “And my ceiling keeps growing. It’s really cool to know a team like this wants me on their team.”

Kerr on Wednesday threw three innings of one-run baseball in relief of Morton. He’s allowed one run over six innings, with six strikeouts since the Braves brought him up to replace the injured Tyler Matzek.

Over the offseason, the Braves acquired Kerr from San Diego. It looks like he could be a solid contributor this year.

“I’m here to show them why they wanted me,” he said. “I’m here to get better every day, little by little. No matter what goes on on the mound, I’m here to compete and get better every day on the mound.”

Pierce Johnson is expected to come off the injured list on Friday. It would seem he’ll likely replace Kerr or Jackson Stephens, who also pitched on Wednesday.

Kerr has minor-league options, so he can be sent down. Stephens is out of options and would need to be removed from the roster.

4. Kerr has made a positive impression in his short time with the big club.

“Really good,” Snitker said. “I’ve been very impressed with him. Knew he had the stuff. He’s done a nice job in the situations that we’ve put him in. It’s good. That stuff’s real.”

If the Braves keep Kerr here, he might have an opportunity to face his former team, which will be in town next.

5. The Braves’ lone run came from Short, who was acquired on May 9. He’s made the most of his opportunity.

In the seventh inning, he hit a run-scoring double. He has two doubles and two RBIs in three starts since he began filling in for Austin Riley (left side soreness).

Stat to know

6 - The Braves’ starting pitchers have served up six leadoff homers this season. Chris Sale has given up three of them, and Max Fried, Spencer Strider and Morton have each allowed one. It’s the most given up by the Braves within a single season since the 2006 club served up eight of them. Last year’s team only issued four leadoff shots over the entire regular season.


“We’re getting spoiled by these (starting pitchers). That’s gonna happen. It was just one of them innings that balls are right out of the reach of guys, and a couple really tough plays. It just happens.” - Snitker on Morton’s performance

Up next

On Friday, the Braves and Padres begin a four-game series. Max Fried will face San Diego right-hander Matt Waldron. First pitch is at 7:20 p.m.