“They’re tough,” Morton said. “They’re a really good lineup and you’ve just got to be that much better, and I wasn’t.”
Morton can’t be great all the time. But the reality is the Braves need Morton, Strider and Bryce Elder to carry the rotation until Max Fried and Kyle Wright return from the injury list. Morton couldn’t do his part against the Dodgers.
The Braves staked him to a 4-0 lead after an inning and added another run against Stone in the fourth. Morton gave up six runs over five innings. Ex-Braves star Freddie Freeman put the Dodgers ahead for good with a three-run homer off Morton in the fifth.
The Braves were rolling until injuries fouled up their starting rotation. The same thing is true for the Dodgers.
Starters Dustin May and Julio Urias were placed on the injured list last week. That’s why the Dodgers called up Stone. Bobby Miller is set to make his MLB debut on Tuesday vs. Braves right-hander Spencer Strider. That looks like another mismatch in favor to the Braves.
You never know, though. Strider hasn’t been as good in May as he was in April. The Dodgers don’t have as many star hitters as in the past, but the approach looks the same.
“As a lineup, they worked some counts and they didn’t chase (pitches) much, at all,” Morton said.
Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com
Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com
J.D. Martinez homered twice among his four hits. He hit his second homer off Braves reliever A.J. Minter, who’s allowed runs in four of his past six outings. Freeman had a double and single in addition to the homer. The Dodgers pounded out six extra-base hits and produced baserunners in seven of nine innings.
The Braves knocked Stone out after four innings but scored just one run against Dodgers relievers.
“We had another one of our (big) first innings and then we just kind of stalled out for a while,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I don’t know what the gist of that is.”
A big part of the explanation is that the Dodgers are still the Dodgers even after they reset for this season. They usually spend big but were relatively thrifty after losing to the Padres in the 2022 NLDS.
The Dodgers signed six free agents to one-year deals for this season. Just three of those were for $7 million or more: pitchers Clayton Kershaw ($20 million) and Noah Syndergaard ($13 million), and Martinez. The Dodgers let five key veterans walk: Trea Turner, Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger, Tyler Anderson and Craig Kimbrel.
The offseason departures left the Dodgers with less depth than usual. The roster got thinner when shortstop Gavin Lux suffered a season-ending knee injury in February. Right-hander Walker Buehler may not pitch this season after undergoing elbow surgery in 2022.
Yet the Dodgers (30-19) are near the top of the NL. They won six games in row from May 9-15, including three straight against NL West rival San Diego. The Dodgers won two of three games against the Twins, the NL Central leaders. They lost two of three at St. Louis before coming to Atlanta but were just a game behind the Braves for the NL’s top record.
Atlanta’s pitching is showing the strain from all the injuries. The Braves (29-18) managed to win the series against the Mariners last weekend with rookie Jared Shuster starting the finale. That was a bonus. It was offset by Morton’s ineffective start against the Dodgers.
It hasn’t helped that Atlanta’s bullpen has been leaky lately, but Snitker doesn’t see it as the relievers needing to pick up the starters.
“I think it’s the other way around,” Snitker said. “Our rotation needs to cover innings to help the bullpen, probably. They’ve been doing a good job with it under the circumstances and what we’ve been though. We’ve been kind of holding our own and doing OK.
“Tonight didn’t work out.”
The Dodgers had a lot to do with that. If they take the series, they’ve leave Atlanta with the NL’s best winning percentage. They may not be the powerhouse Dodgers of the recent past, but they’re very good.