ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—After learning he would fly cross country to make his major league debut, Charlie Morton had problems making connections. Getting from Richmond, Va., to Los Angeles got so tough, he nearly gave up.
Morton finally arrived at 2:30 a.m., and the effort was well worth it for him, the Atlanta Braves, and the 25 family members and friends who came to the game as his guests.
The 24-year-old right-hander pitched the Braves to a 9-4 victory over the Angels on Saturday night in front of his parents and girlfriend. He was helped by Brandon Jones’ first major league homer and Mark Teixeira’s three RBIs.
“The Braves always told me that I had great stuff and I would pitch in the big leagues someday, but it always seemed really far away,” Morton said. “It’s always been a struggle for me, but they have always been extremely positive with me, and that’s what allowed me to maintain some form of confidence. They went out of their way to show me that they believed in me.”
Morton, whose contract was purchased from Triple-A Richmond earlier in the day, allowed three runs and five hits in six innings with four strikeouts and a walk. He is the ninth pitcher to start for the Braves, who have John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Mike Hampton on the disabled list.
“It’s not the ideal circumstances, getting called up because of the injuries. It happened a few times while I was down there, and it crossed my mind that this might happen,” said Morton, who will get at least one more start according to manager Bobby Cox. “There’s always the sense that, if you’re pitching well, they might need you at the next level. So I just tried to be as prepared as possible and the situation came along.”
A third-round pick in the 2002 draft, Morton threw 64 of his 104 pitches for strikes. He was 5-2 with a 2.05 ERA in his first season at Triple-A and didn’t allow a home run in his 79 innings.
The Braves cleared a roster spot by placing closer Rafael Soriano back on the 15-day DL, retroactive to June 6. Soriano, who signed a two-year, $9 million contract in January, came off the DL on May 28 and made only five appearances after being sidelined for six weeks because of a sore right elbow.
Matthews, batting eighth for the first time since Sept. 30, 2005, with Texas, was erased in a rundown as he broke for the plate on Mike Napoli’s grounder to third. Morton walked Figgins, and Izturis doubled to left-center, scoring the first two runs.
“After the first inning, I kind of lost my groove and my body didn’t feel as good as it had,” Morton said. “I don’t know if it was the adrenaline or whatever. But I threw strikes for the most part, so it was a relief. I felt pretty good once it was over with. There were a few rocky spots, but I got through it. The end result is a win, so that’s what matters.”
Kelly Johnson also homered for the Braves, who won 5-2 Friday night and have recorded consecutive victories on a road trip for the first time since April 11-12 at Washington. They are a major league-worst 9-24 away from Turner Field.
Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones was back in the lineup after a freak batting practice mishap that kept him out of Friday’s game. He went 0-for-3, lowering his major league-leading average to .409.
Jones also walked twice, once with the bases loaded against reliever Justin Speier during the Braves’ three-run eighth. Teixeira followed with a two-run single off Darren O’Day for a 9-3 lead.
Ervin Santana (8-3) gave up six runs, nine hits and two walks in 5 2-3 innings and struck out six. The right-hander came in with the fourth-best ERA in the AL (3.01), but it rose to 3.40 after his worst outing of the season. It was the second time in 14 starts he failed to last at least six innings, and the first time he allowed two home runs.
“I still made good pitches, but I guess those were the pitches they were looking for,” Santana said. “Those guys have a very good eye and they don’t swing at bad pitches. I could throw an 0-2 slider in the dirt and they would never swing at it.”
Trailing 2-0, the Braves took the lead with four runs in the fifth. They loaded the bases with none out before Yunel Escobar followed Gregor Blanco’s bunt hit with a two-run single. Santana walked Chipper Jones one out later and then hit Teixeira on the left foot to force in the go-ahead run. Brian McCann capped the rally with an RBI single.
Atlanta increased its margin to 5-2 in the sixth on solo homers by Brandon Jones and Johnson. Jones was playing in his third major league game after being promoted from Triple-A on Wednesday.
The Braves have a makeup game on Monday at Colorado and then head to Arlington, Texas, where Teixeira played his first 4 1/2 seasons before the Rangers traded him to Atlanta at last year’s trading deadline. “I’m sure I’ll get a few boos because the popular thing to do is boo ex-players,” said Teixeira, who led the Rangers in homers and RBIs for three straight seasons.