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Charlie Morton

Sport: Baseball

Born: November 12, 1983

Town: Flemington

Charles A. Morton was born November 12, 1983 in Flemington. Charlie’s father, Chip, was a basketball player for Penn State, so as Charlie grew to 6–5, no one was surprised. What raised a few eyebrows was that baseball was clearly the boy’s sport. He had a live arm as far back as anyone could remember and, after his family moved to Redding, Connecticut, he trained with coach Joe Norko at an indoor facility in Milford. There Charlie learned how to throw a curve.

By the time Charlie joined the Joel Barlow High School varsity, he had command of a fastball that touched the 90s, a 12-to-6 curve and a sinker. Between starts, he worked with his dad in family bullpen sessions. In 2002, Charlie was taken in the third round of the draft by the Atlanta Braves.

By 2008, Charlie had worked his way up to Triple-A Richmond. That season, he was the most dominant pitcher in the minors during the first half. The Braves promoted him in June and he made 15 starts for the team, going 4–8 with a 6.15 ERA. It was a lost season for the Braves, who dropped 90 games, so manager Bobby Cox figured it was a good time to see what Charlie had.

Apparently, the Pittsburgh Pirates liked what they saw more than the Braves did. Flush with outfield prospects, they traded Nate McClouth to Atlanta to obtain Charlie in 2009, and slotted him into their starting rotation in June. He went 5–9 with a 4.55 ERA.

A lot was expected of Charlie in 2010, but he had a catastrophic season. Suffering from shoulder fatigue, he went 2–12 and spent half the season either on the DL or in the minors. He pitched better in September, but his career was hanging by a thread when Spring Training began in 2011.

Charlie made the Pirates starting rotation and his record stood at 5–2 at the end of May. The difference was his sinker. Major leaguers could hit his mid-90s fastball and his breaking stuff wasn’t always reliable. But when he had his sinker working, batters just pounded it into the ground. Through the course of the season he lost and regained his feel for the pitch, but in August he seemed to turn a corner, hurling 24 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings. He finished 11–11 with an ERA under 4.00 and was named the Pirates’ Breakout Player of the Year.

Charlie had surgery after the seaosn to repair a slight labrum tear, but the healing process was slower than expected. When he finally returned to the mound in 2012 he damaged his elbow and had to undergo Tommy John surgery. Charlie was back in uniform in June of 2013 and went 7–4 in 20 starts. In 2014, he was striking out batters at a career-best rate, but struggled at times with control. He had won just 6 of 26 starts when a leg injury ended his season in August. He led the NL in hit batters in both 2013 and 2014.

Charlie returned to the mound in 2015 and went 9–9 in 23 starts for the Pirates. He had started the year a perfect 5–0 but was inconsistent thereafter. In his last appearance opf the season he was hammered by St. Louis in a game that could have positioned the Pirates to overtake the division-leading Cardinals in the final week. The Pirates made the playoffs but lost the Wild Card Game. After the season, Pittsburgh traded Charlie to the Phillies for a minor leaguer. He made the Opening Day roster in 2016 but tore a hamstrong running out a grounder in April and was shelved for the remainder of the season.

A free agent following the 2016 season, Charlie signed a two-year $14 million deal with the Astros. He worked with pitching coach Brent Strom to alter his pitch-to-contact approach and instead try to miss bats with his fastball and slider. Charlie made the starting rotation and struck out 12 A's in 7 innings in an impressive April outing. He spent all of June on the DL but returned with a vengeance, racking up 4 wins in July. With the Astros comfortably ahead in therir division, Charlie began to prepare for his trip to the postseason in four years. He ended the year with personal highs of 14 wins, 163 strikeouts and a 1.19 WHIP. He was less effective in the playoffs, allowing two runs in four-plus innings against the Red Sox (in the Game 4 clincher) and got knocked around by the Yankees in Game 3 of the ALCS—including a three-run homer to Todd Frazier. Charlie bounced back in Game 7 of the series, however, holding New York scoreless through the first five innings on the way to a 4–0 victory and Houston's first-ever pennant as an AL team.

Game 7's turned out to be a Charlie Morton specialty. After pitching well against the Dodgers in a Game 4 loss, he returned to the mound in the sixth inning of Game 7 as a relief pitcher—for the first time in 9 seasons. Manager A.J. Hinch was praying for an inning or two out of Charlie to preserve a 5–0 lead. After giving up a run early he mowed down the Dodgers in the final three innings to earn the W, as the Astros won their first championship in their 56th season.

Charlie continued his success in the 2018 regular season, pitching more or less injury-free and finishing with a 15–3 mark and 201 strikeouts. He fanned 14 in a game against the Rangers to set a new career-high. The Astros won their division again and swept the Indians in the opening round of the playoffs. Charlie didn't pitch in the series but made a start in the ALCS against the Red Sox. It did not go well. He didn't last three innings, allowing three earned runs in a game the Astros needed to tie the series at 2–2. The Red Sox beat up the Houston bullpen the rest of the way and took game five to win the pennant.

The Tampa Bay Rays signed Charlie to a two-year $30 million deal over the winter and he rewarded them with 16 victories and a second straight trip to the All-Star Game. At season's end he was third in the AL Cy Young voting. In the playoffs against the Oakland A's he got the ball in the Wild Card game and won for the third time in a winner-take-all contest—the most in postseason history. He faced the Astros in the Division Series and won Game 3 with the Rays down 0–2, but they ended up losing the series in five games.

In the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Charlie only made seven starts and worked through a couple of injuries, but he was good to go come playoff time. He beat the Yankees once and the Astros twice, allowing a grand total of one earned run to help Tampa Bay win the pennant. His second victory over Houston, in Game 7, was his fourth everything-on-the-line playoff victory. Unfortunately, his luck ran out against the Dodgers in the World Series. He gave up five runs in his Game 3 duel with Walker Buehler. LA won the game 6–2 and took the series in six games. The Rays declined Charlie's option for 2021, and he signed with his first big-league club, the Atlanta Braves.


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