Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker says his side simply ran into a hot team after bowing out of the MLB postseason following a 8-3 loss in Game 4 of the NLDS against the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday.

The Phillies completed a 3-1 NLDS win with another dominant display over the 2021 world champions at Citizens Bank Park, backing up Friday's emphatic 9-1 win.

Brandon Marsh delivered a three-run blast in the second inning, before J.T. Realmuto stirred up the home fans with a remarkable inside-the-park homer in the third. Bryce Harper's eighth-inning opposite-field home run put the gloss on the win.

For the Braves, it ended their title defence, having finished top of the NL East with a 101-61 after sensationally overhauling the New York Mets late in the regular season.

The Phillies won Games 3 and 4 scoring 17-4, while they piled on 24 runs across the four-game series despite being kept scoreless in Game 2 after a fine Kyle Wright shift.

Excluding Wright, the Braves starting pitchers struggled throughout the NLDS, with Charlie Morton pulled after two innings on Saturday, following on from Max Fried and Spencer Strider in Games 1 and 3 respectively.

"We ran into a really hot team, pretty much," Snitker told reporters. “They were hitting on all cylinders. They were playing great baseball. They got big hits.

"They shut us down offensively, and I think all the credit goes to the Phillies. They came in here, they got hot at the right time and played a heck of a series."

Snitker was not too downbeat about the Braves campaign, where rookies Michael Harris II and Strider emerged while Wright broke out, offering a solid foundation moving forward.

"They should be very proud of what they did this year," Snitker said. “Like I said earlier, you just never know where the postseason is going to take you and what’s going to happen.

"But we had a really strong year. The goal was to get into the postseason. We did and it didn't happen."

The Phillies, who finished 14 games behind the Braves in the NL East, progressed to the NLCS for the first time since 2010, after a midseason change of manager with Joe Girardi replaced by Rob Thomson.

Philadelphia will face either the Los Angeles Dodgers or San Diego Padres in the NLCS and will have plenty of belief after dominating the final two games against the Braves.

"The last 24 hours shows what we're made of," Marsh said. "There's a lot of good going with this ball club.

"We've just got to keep it going, keep our heads down and grind and just stay focused on the task at hand. The last 24 hours have been pretty fun."

The Atlanta Braves are bringing back Charlie Morton for 2023, reaching a one-year, $20million contract extension with the veteran right-hander.

The deal was announced Friday and includes a $20million club option for 2024 and does not include a buyout.

One of the most reliable starters in the Braves’ rotation this season, the 38-year-old Morton has made a team-high 30 starts while going 9-6 with a 4.29 ERA and 200 strikeouts – fifth most in the NL.

A two-time All-Star, Morton helped the Braves to last year’s World Series championship, going 14-6 with a 3.34 ERA and 216 strikeouts. In four starts in the playoffs, he posted a 3.24 ERA with 22 strikeouts over 16 2/3 innings.

Drafted by Atlanta in 2002, Morton made his major league debut for the Braves in 2008 before being traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates prior to the 2009 season.

After seven seasons with the Pirates, he was with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2016 before spending the next two with Houston, where he was a member of the 2017 World Series champion Astros.

The next two seasons were spent with the Tampa Bay Rays, before he re-joined the Braves prior to last season.

After a chaotic offseason, which included a lockout and pushing back Opening Day, baseball is almost back.

With a new collective bargaining agreement in place, two new playoff spots up for grabs and plenty of big-name player movement, it is shaping up to be an enthralling MLB season.

The defending champion Atlanta Braves may have improved, despite losing star Freddie Freeman to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Yankees' position as the best team in New York could soon be under threat. 

With so many storylines, the most logical place to begin is right at the very top.

 

Can the Braves go back-to-back?

As is often the case, the World Series race is wide open, but Atlanta is at least in the mix as far as the pre-season odds go.

Some would consider the Braves' run last season a fluke – they won 88 games in the regular season, while the 91-win Toronto Blue Jays and 90-win Seattle Mariners missed out on playoff berths entirely.

However, they were missing superstar Ronald Acuna Jr for a large chunk of the year, and made meaningful additions at the trade deadline including Eddie Rosario, Jorge Soler and Joc Pederson, and their playoff surge indicated that the record was not an accurate reflection of their talent.

While they lost franchise legend Freeman to the Dodgers, the Braves are arguably getting an upgrade at first base in the form of Matt Olson, who is four years younger and was a two-time Gold Glove winner with the Oakland Athletics before being traded for a four-player package of young Braves prospects.

Max Fried and Charlie Morton comprise a stout top of the rotation while Mike Soroka is out injured, and they have some strong bullpen arms including Tyler Matzek and Collin McHugh.

The Braves are a team without a clear weakness and will be full of confidence, so expect them to be fighting it out at the top of the NL East against the second-most expensive team in baseball, the New York Mets, as they bid to become the first team to win consecutive World Series since the Yankees in 1999 and 2000.

 

Are the Mets the best team in New York?

Since 2001, the New York Mets have only finished with a better record than the Yankees twice, in 2015 and 2016.

During that span, the Mets have never had a more expensive payroll than their local rivals – until this year.

The Mets are projected to come into Opening Day trailing only the Dodgers with the second-highest payroll in the league at $251million, while the Yankees are third at $239m.

It represents more than just deep pockets for second-year owner Steve Cohen, it shows that the Mets are no longer the 'little brother', and are willing to spend what it takes to be taken seriously against the most decorated franchise in major league history.

Buck Showalter will be the man tasked with turning the money into wins in his first year in the role, the former three-time AL Manager of the Year known for maximising talent on a limited budget with the Baltimore Orioles from 2010 to 2018, a stint that included a playoff series win over the Yankees.

Ultimately, what the Mets' season will hinge on is the health of their starting pitchers, with Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer (who turns 38 this season) comprising the best one-two punch in baseball after Marcus Stroman left as a free agent to join the Chicago Cubs. DeGrom has already been sidelined for four weeks with a shoulder injury.

The rotation also includes 2021 All-Star Taijuan Walker, who tailed off late last season, but showed impressive ability when fresh.

Francisco Lindor remains the young jewel of the franchise – now two seasons into a 10-year, $341m contract extension – and along with power-hitting Pete Alonso and rangy center-fielder Starling Marte, there is plenty of quality stepping into the batters' box.

The Yankees will have one of the highest-ceiling batting line-ups when they roll out sluggers Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Joey Gallo, but they also play in the league's toughest division in the AL East, and could be candidates for regression after losing pitcher Corey Kluber and trading away bats Gio Urshela and Luke Voit.

 

 

Did the best team in baseball not make the playoffs in 2021?

It may be hard to believe, but given the meat grinder that is the AL East, the Toronto Blue Jays are bookmakers' second-favourite to win the World Series despite not making the playoffs this past season.

The Blue Jays were top three in runs scored in 2021 and should again be one of the most explosive teams in the league this time around.

Toronto will also be able to enjoy a homecoming season, returning to Rogers Centre after the Blue Jays were forced to play their 2021 home games in Buffalo due to pandemic restrictions.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr and Bo Bichette are franchise cornerstones, last year's big signing George Springer was enormous in an injury-shortened debut campaign, and they have the luxury of adding Matt Chapman this season, who has two Platinum Gloves to his name as one of the best defensive players in the league.

Pitching remains the question mark in Toronto, with AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray departing for Seattle in a serious blow to a rotation with plenty to prove.

Nobody should be surprised if the Blue Jays jump up from fourth in their division all the way to the top, and are one of the teams with real World Series aspirations this season.

 

Which top prospect will establish themselves as a star? 

There will be some elite prospects finding their way in the majors this season, but will any of them burst onto the scene as a star?

In 2017, Judge did more than just win Rookie of the Year, he led the AL in home runs and finished second in AL MVP voting.

While there is always a chance that an unheralded rookie emerges as the premier prospect, there is a relatively clear top-tier consisting of three players entering the season.

Kansas City Royals infielder Bobby Witt Jr, Baltimore Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman and Seattle Mariners outfielder Julio Rodriguez.

Rutschman will hit for average from both sides of the plate while projecting as an elite defensive catcher, Witt is the five-tool stud who will make eye-popping plays with his glove at shortstop, and Rodriguez is the big, power-hitting corner outfielder.

At 24 years old, Rutschman is the senior of the class, while the other two are considerably younger at 21, but all three will have a chance to prove themselves early in the year as franchise-altering stars – and potentially become the biggest story of this season.

The Atlanta Braves have replaced injured pitcher Charlie Morton with left-hander Tucker Davidson on their World Series roster.

Morton was forced out of the 6-2 win over the Houston Astros in Game 1 on Tuesday after he was struck in the lower right leg by Yuli Gurriel's comebacker in the second inning.

The 37-year-old right-hander initially stayed in the game, but was withdrawn in the third inning, with X-rays later revealing a series-ending broken right fibula.

Davidson had a 3.60 ERA with 18 strikeouts in four big league starts this season, occurring back in May and June.

The 25-year-old has not appeared in postseason games and missed much of the regular season with left forearm inflammation.

Morton had a 3.34 ERA, with 216 strikeouts with a 14-6 record across the 2021 MLB season.

Atlanta Braves star Jorge Soler conceded Charlie Morton's injury had taken the shine off his team's 6-2 triumph over the Houston Astros in Game 1 of the World Series.

Morton took a hard grounder off the leg in the second inning but remained in the game to finish out the frame, then struck out the first batter of the third before leaving when the pain became too intense.

X-rays revealed the 37-year-old had suffered a broken right fibula, ruling him out of the remainder of the series.

Soler, who hit the third pitch of the game for a home run, said of Morton's setback: "It was extremely challenging for us.

"We saw him getting treatment and getting worked on. He went back out there to pitch on that broken leg.

"It was really challenging and emotional for us to have to see him in the game being hurt, our World Series opener, starter."

In the 117th edition of the World Series, Soler became the first player to lead off the top of the first inning of Game 1 with a homer – a welcome development for Atlanta as teams that score first in the 2021 postseason are now 25-7. 

"The energy was amazing and electric, especially after we took a 1-0 lead after that home run," said Soler.

"I feel extremely grateful to be here and be a member of this organisation. I feel like Atlanta opened its arms for me. They traded for me, and they gave me opportunity to play every day.

"So as far as I'm concerned, I'm extremely grateful to the organisation, to the fans who have definitely supported us, and like I said, I'm very happy to be here."

Astros starter Framber Valdez had been dominant early in games, allowing only one run in the first two innings over his previous six games combined, but he would retire only six of the 15 men he faced Tuesday before departing down 5-0 with no outs in the third inning. 

Beyond Soler's leadoff blast, the other big offensive blow for the Braves was a two-run laser over the left-field fence by Adam Duvall in the third that drove Valdez from the game.  

Game 2 is on Wednesday in Houston with Max Fried taking the mound for the Braves against the Astros' Jose Urquidy. 

The Atlanta Braves had the best possible start and held on from there to take Game 1 of the World Series from the Houston Astros 6-2 on Tuesday. 

Jorge Soler hit the third pitch of the game for a home run and the Braves scored in each of the first three innings to build what proved to be an insurmountable lead out of the gate at Minute Maid Park. 

In the 117th edition of the World Series, Soler became the first player to lead off the top of the first inning of Game 1 with a homer – a welcome development for Atlanta as teams that score first in the 2021 postseason are now 25-7. 

Astros starter Framber Valdez had been dominant early in games, allowing only one run in the first two innings over his previous six games combined, but he would retire only six of the 15 men he faced Tuesday before departing down 5-0 with no outs in the third inning. 

Beyond Soler's leadoff blast, the other big offensive blow for the Braves was a two-run laser over the left-field fence by Adam Duvall in the third that drove Valdez from the game. 

His opposite number, Charlie Morton, also failed to make it out of the third, but his departure came through injury rather than ineffectiveness. 

Morton took a hard grounder off the leg in the second inning but remained in the game to finish out the frame, then struck out the first batter of the third before leaving when the pain became too intense. X-rays would reveal the 37-year-old had suffered a broken right fibula. 

Losing Morton for the remainder of the series will be a blow to Atlanta, but they cannot complain about the all-around effort that allowed them to break a string of eight consecutive World Series game losses dating to their last Fall Classic appearances in 1999 and 1996. 

Every batter in the Braves' starting lineup had at least one hit by the sixth inning and four relievers managed to keep Houston under control after Morton's injury. 

Atlanta also scratched out a late run thanks to some aggressive baserunning by Dansby Swanson in the eighth and got out of the bottom of that inning when NLCS MVP Eddie Rosario threw out Yuli Gurriel at second base as he tried to stretch a drive off the outfield wall into a double. 

Game 2 is Wednesday in Houston with Max Fried taking the mound for the Braves against the Astros' Jose Urquidy. 

Atlanta Braves pitcher Charlie Morton suffered a broken leg in the second inning of Game 1 of the World Series against the Houston Astros – but did not leave the game until the following inning. 

The Braves said X-rays showed Morton fractured his right fibula and he will miss the rest of the World Series. 

Yuli Gurriel led off the bottom of the second inning for the Astros with a hard one-hopper up the middle that deflected off Morton's lower right leg to Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman for an out. 

Morton struck out the next batter, Chas McCormick, then got Martin Maldonado to line out to end the inning. 

Morton came back out for the third inning, but grimaced as he struck out Houston leadoff man Jose Altuve and bent over to rub his lower right leg before leaving the game. 

The 37-year-old right-hander threw 16 pitches after breaking his push leg, two of them 96 mph fastballs. 

Morton, who helped lead the Astros to a World Series title in 2017, was the Braves' most reliable starter this season, going 14-6 with a 3.34 ERA as he led MLB with 33 regular-season starts. 

Entering the World Series, Morton had allowed six earned runs across three postseason starts this year. 

 

Atlanta Braves star Charlie Morton signed a new contract with the MLB franchise, it was announced on Monday.

Braves ace and two-time All-Star Morton penned a one-year, $20million extension in Atlanta, where the starting pitcher has a $20m option for 2023.

Morton returned to the Braves this season following his exploits during the Tampa Bay Rays' run to the 2020 World Series, having been drafted by Atlanta in 2002.

The 37-year-old – a World Series winner with the Houston Astros in 2017 – debuted for the Braves in 2008 before leaving the following year.

Morton has starred in his second stint with the Braves, going 13-5 with a 3.47 ERA in 28 starts this season.

He has 185 strikeouts in 2021 – tied for eighth, while he is fifth for winning percentage (.722).

The Braves (72-64) top the National League (NL) East.

A meeting of two of the top teams in the American League nearly produced the second no-hitter of the night in MLB, but the Oakland Athletics settled for a 2-1 walk-off win against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Oakland starting pitcher Sean Manaea was perfect through six innings and had a no-hitter through seven innings, leaving a 1-1 game with one out in the eighth. 

That ended Manaea's bid for his second career no-hitter to follow his April 2018 gem against the Boston Red Sox, but Oakland still managed to pull out the victory against the defending AL champions. 

Seth Brown won it for the A's with a two-out home run off Jeffrey Springs in the bottom of the ninth. 

Brown had driven in the previous Oakland run with a single in the seventh inning. 

 

Miley with fourth MLB no-hitter this season

Cincinnati Reds pitcher Wade Miley threw the fourth no-hitter in MLB this season, shutting down the Cleveland Indians for a 3-0 win. Miley's gem came two days after John Means of the Baltimore Orioles no-hit the Seattle Mariners and is the 17th no-hitter in Reds history.

Austin Slater's tie-breaking home run gave the San Francisco Giants a 5-4 win over the San Diego Padres as the top two teams in the National League West squared off. 

The Washington Nationals scored eight runs in the final two innings to break a 3-3 tie and blow out the New York Yankees 11-4. Josh Harrison hit a three-run home run in the eighth and Juan Soto a two-run homer in the ninth for Washington. 

Francisco Lindor hit a two-run homer in the seventh to tie the game and the New York Mets beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-4 with a walk-off bases-loaded ground ball by Patrick Mazeika in the 10th inning. 

Detroit Tigers star Miguel Cabrera singled in his first two at-bats to give him 2,874 hits in his career, passing Babe Ruth for 45th on MLB's all-time list, in a 7-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins. 

 

Phillies get to Morton early

In his first six starts for the Atlanta Braves, Charlie Morton held opponents scoreless in the first inning while allowing only three base-runners. That luck changed Friday, as seven of the nine Philadelphia Phillies he faced in the first reached base and the visitors posted a 6-0 lead while driving Morton from the game in a 12-2 Phillies win. 

 

Flaherty can hit, too

Shohei Ohtani is not the only MLB pitcher who can go deep at the plate. St Louis Cardinals ace Jack Flaherty crushed a pitch from former team-mate Austin Gomber of the Colorado Rockies for a 416-foot home run. On the mound, Flaherty allowed only three hits in seven innings as the Cardinals rolled to a 5-0 win.

 

Friday's results

Chicago Cubs 3-2 Pittsburgh Pirates
Washington Nationals 11-4 New York Yankees
New York Mets 5-4 Arizona Diamondbacks
Miami Marlins 6-1 Milwaukee Brewers
Minnesota Twins 7-3 Detroit Tigers
Philadelphia Phillies 12-2 Atlanta Braves
Seattle Mariners 5-4 Texas Rangers
Boston Red Sox 6-2 Baltimore Orioles
Cincinnati Reds 3-0 Cleveland Indians
Houston Astros 10-4 Toronto Blue Jays
Chicago White Sox 3-0 Kansas City Royals
St Louis Cardinals 5-0 Colorado Rockies
Los Angeles Angels 9-2 Los Angeles Dodgers
Oakland Athletics 2-1 Tampa Bay Rays
San Francisco Giants 5-4 San Diego Padres

 

Nationals at Yankees

Two pitchers with impressive track records will be on display in New York as three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (2-2, 2.54 ERA) and the Washington Nationals visit two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber (2-2, 3.03 ERA) and the Yankees. 

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