Home News Sean Murphy hits record homer as Braves beat Rays

Sean Murphy hits record homer as Braves beat Rays

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ST. PETERSBURG — On a night when the Braves set an AL/NL record for home runs before the All-Star break, the real power was displayed by the right arm of 39-year-old Charlie Morton and the club’s shutdown bullpen.

The Braves managed just two hits — one of them a homer (of course) — and that was enough to defeat the Rays, 2-1, on Friday night at Tropicana Field in a matchup of baseball’s top two teams.

The Braves (59-28), who have won 26 of their past 30 games, needed just one jolt, a fourth-inning two-run homer from All-Star catcher Sean Murphy. It was the 24th consecutive game in which Atlanta homered, one off the Modern Era (since 1900) franchise record. The Braves have 167 homers, putting them on pace for 311, which would top the 2019 Twins (307) for the Major League record.

From there, the result was iced away by the stellar pitching of Morton and the bullpen of A.J. Minter, Nick Anderson and Raisel Iglesias. Morton, who pitched for the Rays in 2019-20, allowed just four hits and one run in 6 1/3 innings while walking two and striking out six.

“Charlie was really, really good and very efficient,’’ Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He just keeps amazing me. The ball was coming out of his hand really good tonight.’’

Morton said he didn’t place any expectations on himself, but he has been pleased with his first-half results.

“It’s more like I know if I have thrown the ball well or if I haven’t,’’ Morton said. “It’s not necessarily based on results, because the results come from throwing the ball well. But I think I’ve looked back at more outings than not [this season] and said, ‘Man, I did what I tried to do with the ball.’ So in that regard, I think I’m mostly satisfied.’’

“He’s different,’’ Murphy said. “I mean, a lot of guys are 39, but to still be doing what he’s doing, pitching at the level he’s pitching at, it’s nice to be around him. They don’t come around too often [like Morton].’’

Murphy had the game-deciding blow — a two-run homer off Rays starter Tyler Glasnow after Matt Olson reached on a one-out error — but also performed well in the game’s little things. He expertly managed the pitching staff and threw out two runners against the Rays, who lead MLB with 110 stolen bases.

“That was big … just huge, huge,’’ Snitker said. “I mean, when runs are at a premium, all those plays are big. The infield [surface] is kind of fast. If those hops get by an infielder, anything can happen.

“It’s about winning the game. I don’t care how you do it or who gets [the winning hit]. We only got two hits, but one of them was a really big one. It was one of those games where you’re not going to bunch a lot of hits together. We were fortunate that Sean got into one.’’

Murphy said the most impressive thing about the Braves’ homer-happy season is how the power has been distributed through the lineup.

“That’s the beauty of this lineup,’’ Murphy said. “It’s not the same guy every night. It doesn’t have to be. And if it’s not your day, hopefully it’s somebody else’s and they pick up the slack.’’

Outside of Murphy’s homer, Glasnow held the Braves in check. Glasnow, who struck out eight, was removed in the sixth inning with cramping in his left hand. But Atlanta had no better luck against reliever Elvin Rodriguez, making his Rays debut, who tossed 3 1/3 perfect innings with five strikeouts.

The Rays (57-34), on a season-high six-game losing streak, opened the scoring with Wander Franco’s solo homer on Morton’s third pitch of the game. After that, though, the Braves’ pitching staff was stingy.

The Rays never got a runner to third base and had only three runners in scoring position. In the eighth, with two runners aboard, Anderson coaxed Franco into an inning-ending grounder. In the ninth, after Harold Ramírez smacked a two-out double, Iglesias struck out Taylor Walls to end the game.

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