One key area that shows Braves pitcher Charlie Morton is returning to form

Braves pitcher Charlie Morton delivers against the Padres on Saturday at Truist Park. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Credit: AP

Combined ShapeCaption
Braves pitcher Charlie Morton delivers against the Padres on Saturday at Truist Park. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Credit: AP

The box score from Charlie Morton’s last two starts would tell you he is on the upswing after a rough start to the season.

A closer look reveals something else that could mean he is truly returning to form.

Morton is once again inducing swings and misses from hitters. Morton, who always observes hitters’ reactions, saw what he wanted to see out of the Padres on Saturday: They were late on his fastball and swung over his curveball a decent amount of times.

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“That was nice to have the results be what they were,” Morton said after the win, “but also really to see what I was hoping to see out of hitters.”

Morton racked up a season-best nine strikeouts, four more than his previous season high. His stuff finally got the results he has hoped for all along.

On 43 swings against Morton, the Padres swung and missed at 15 pitches. This was an improvement from Morton’s May 8 start, when the Brewers whiffed on 10 pitches out of 43 swings.

And in this area, Morton’s last two starts were much better than the three before them.

On May 3 in New York, Morton only got five swings and misses on 45 swings. A start before that, he got three whiffs on 26 swings. He got seven on 36 swings before that.

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This all led to Saturday, when Morton held the Padres to a run over a season-high six innings. He looked like the same pitcher he’s been since reinventing himself and turning a corner five years ago.

After the game, the Padres credited Morton. They knocked him around for five runs over five innings in April, but he has returned to his normal self.

“He’s a great pitcher”, acting manager Ryan Christenson said. “He’s always been a great pitcher. Had a good fastball (Saturday). The breaking ball was tough.”

Added infielder Jake Cronenworth: “It’s tough. He had his best stuff (Saturday), and he was hitting his spots and keeping us off balance and throwing his curveball for strikes.”

Full circle for Matt Olson, Sean Manaea

In 2015, Matt Olson and Sean Manaea both played for Double-A Midland. Their manager? Christenson, who is now Bob Melvin’s bench coach in San Diego.

Christenson is managing the Padres while Melvin recovers from prostate surgery. Olson and Manaea met once again Saturday, this time as foes.

“It was pretty cool,” Olson said. “A little full circle.”

Olson homered off Manaea in their first meeting, but the lefty got the best of the left-handed hitter the rest of the way. Manaea was charged with three earned runs over seven innings, though he pitched much better than that because he went out for the eighth having only allowed a run before his bullpen failed him.

“Manaea’s a great guy, great teammate, obviously a really good pitcher,” Olson said. “Happy for the success that he’s had. He’s a good guy.”

Braves have made comebacks a part of their identity

The Braves trailed by three runs in the eighth inning and won Saturday, which marked their fourth comeback win of the season.

Since Braves manager Brian Snitker took over as interim skipper on May 17, 2016, Atlanta has won 14 games when trailing by three in the eighth inning or later, which is the most in the majors over that span.

Rotation for the Brewers series

The fifth spot in the rotation comes up again Tuesday, and the Braves have listed a “TBA” for that night in Milwaukee.

Otherwise, Ian Anderson will pitch Monday’s series opener and Max Fried will go in Wednesday’s finale.

Spencer Strider pitched an inning Friday, which could line him up to pitch in some capacity Tuesday. Jackson Stephens pitched an inning May 10, which means he could be used, too.

The Braves could also bring up someone.

Unprecedented start time

Sunday’s game, which was scheduled for 11:35 a.m., was an unprecedented start time.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no Braves game since at least 1989 has started prior to noon local time.