Rays’ Charlie Morton ready for Game 7 of World Series - if necessary

Dennis Young, New York Daily News
·6 min read

If the Rays win Game 6 of the World Series on Tuesday night, it could set up a great Game 7 pitching matchup: Charlie Morton vs. Walker Buehler. The Dodgers tagged Morton in Game 3, although the 36-year-old Morton has become one of the best postseason pitchers in baseball history. His dominant ALCS Game 7 win over the Astros made him the first pitcher ever to win four winner-take-all games. But Morton threw a little cold water on the possibility of another one Tuesday. “No one’s told me whether or not I’m available, but I’m gonna go down there tonight like I am,” he said before Game 6. “I have to be physically and mentally ready to pitch.”

He compared the situation to the 2017 playoffs, when he beat the Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS but then didn’t think he would pitch in Game 7 of the World Series. He pitched the final four innings in relief in that game, allowing one run and denying the Dodgers the title. He hopes to do so again, whether that’s behind Blake Snell on Tuesday or starting on Wednesday.

It could be the end of Morton’s career, a possibility that several Rays, including Morton, were emotional about before the game on Tuesday. “We really care about Charlie Morton, Charlie Morton’s family,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Just in a brief two-year span he’s had a massive impact,” Cash said. “I hope it is motivation.”

“Charlie is our guy. He’s the guy that everybody in the clubhouse looks up to,” shortstop Willy Adames said Tuesday. "Everything he does is in the right way. Everything he’s done for this team is amazing. Whether he retires or not, hopefully he doesn’t….it would be amazing to have him for another Game 7.... If he retires or not, hopefully he goes out in the big way as a champion.

“I’m always going to appreciate what he’s done for me. The way he works, the way he treats everybody, not even the players, the staff, the guys in the clubhouse, everybody in the organization, you can see how he treats people in the right way. And I’m honored to play for him and his team.”

DOG DAYS ALMOST OVER

The bubble era of American sports could end as early as Tuesday night if the Dodgers win. Players on both teams have been under fairly strict hotel lockdowns since the beginning of the playoffs; the Dodgers have been in the same site — the Four Seasons in Irving, Texas — since the beginning of the National League Division Series on Oct. 6. Several players on both teams were asked what they would do on the first day that they could bust it open, though as Morton pointed out, they’re still entering a virus-infested world.

Morton’s children are not with him at the World Series bubble; like many players, he chose not to keep young kids contained in a hotel room with no end in sight, and he said he wanted to keep his kids in school.

“Seeing my family, it’s not even close. . . just being able to sit down at breakfast or dinner, that’s everything to me. I’m looking forward to getting out our smoker and getting some meat on there,” Morton said Tuesday. “Nothing is really going to change on where we were before we were out here. We’re still going to be responsible at home.”

To underscore the strangeness (and perhaps semi-permeability) of MLB’s so-called “bubble,” Morton did say that he’s seen his family at the World Series. They were able to greet him from the stands with a sign they brought to Game 3.

Rays catcher Mike Zunino and Dodgers outfielder Enrique Hernandez had answers that were slightly less poignant. Zunino, who said he has his wife and two children under the age of two in the hotel, pointed out that “It’s been about 40 days since I’ve driven a car.”

Hernandez’s answer underscored how vastly different the lives of professional athletes are. While pet adoptions have exploded during the pandemic, athletes have largely been kept away from their beloved animals. Lakers guard Danny Green complained that dogs were banned from the NBA bubble, and Hernandez said the same after his team’s long playoff run. “Seeing my dogs again will be great,” Hernandez said.

ROOF CLOSED AGAIN

The roof was closed again for Game 6. As our Bradford Davis wrote before Game 3, closing the roof with 11,000 fans in addition to hundreds of staffers and players turns the Series into a massive indoor gathering as the coronavirus is at its all-time peak in the United States. (Not to mention one that falls far short of best practices for preventing the spread of the virus.)

But at least one team didn’t seem to mind. Reporters asked Hernandez what the chatter was around the Dodgers as they’re on the brink of their first title in 32 years, and the outfielder said it was mostly around avoiding chattering teeth. “That we hope the roof is closed because it’s freezing,” Hernandez answered on a call with reporters before the game. Temperatures by the ballpark were forecast for 40 degrees at game time; Hernandez will come off the bench Tuesday night.

The Rays are no stranger to bizarre weather circumstances in the World Series. In their only other pennant run, in 2008, the deciding Game 5 started on Oct. 27 and was delayed for two full days by bad weather after the top of the sixth inning.

THANKS, OBAMA

Speaking of the ’08 run, that World Series, like this one, was wrapping up right before a presidential election. Former president Barack Obama, who won that election 12 years ago, may have jinxed the Rays and his old vice president on Tuesday. “Big game tonight. It’s do-or-die time. The last time the Rays were in the World Series in 2008, Florida sent me to the White House,” Obama said at a rally in Orlando. “The Rays fell just a bit short then, but, here in Florida, Democrats fell a little bit short in 2016 also. Over the next couple of weeks, Florida, you’ve got the chance to fix two mistakes. You’ve got the chance to set two things right. You can bring a World Series championship to the Sunshine State, and you can send Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to the White House.”

Obama won Florida in 2008 and 2012, then Donald Trump edged out Hillary Clinton by 100,000 votes in 2016. Biden has a small lead over Trump in most Florida polling.

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