The banner ceremony did not go according to plan. But the Astros did receive a start from their Game 7 hero that did go according to plan.
A good time was had for all. Rich Dauer’s first pitch to manager A.J. Hinch deservingly stole the show in light of Dauer’s quite critical and near-death terror during the World Series celebration parade. An emotional scene for sure. Let’s just say the tears were not courtesy of strong aromas. It was only fitting that Dauer celebrated with the Astros and that the Orioles, with whom Dauer spent his entire ten-year career, were in attendance. After all, he did win a World Series ring with Baltimore in 1983.
All of that stated, Morton’s 2018 debut was quite successful and worth discussing further.
Like this author just stated, Morton’s performance was a good one. Out of his 91 pitches, he threw 56 strikes. Roughly a 62% conversion rate. Not too shabby. Out of those 56 strikes, Morton generated 17 swinging strikes and 15 called strikes. Once again, not too shabby. Of course, Morton himself did not seem impressed in how he threw the ball. Shout out to Gerrit Cole for the quote of the day.
Despite Morton’s honest assessment of his outing, the veteran right-hander did what the Astros needed him to do.
Morton’s stuff was still plenty good enough to get the win. For example, he threw up to 98.6 MPH on his fastball with an average velocity of 95.2 MPH. His breaking balls demonstrated solid movement.
The Orioles’ hitters only generated an average exit velocity of 81 MPH. The highest exit velocity by any Oriole was a splitter fouled off by Trey Mancini at 102.4 MPH. The hardest hit ball in fair territory was a Mancini groundout clocked with a 99.7 MPH exit velocity. Morton carried over his success in generating softer contact from last season into his first game in 2018. For proper context, Morton had an average exit velocity of 85 MPH on batted balls last season.
Morton as the fifth starter on the Astros only speaks to the depth that the team possesses. The former Brave and Pirate would easily be another team’s second to fourth starter. He is on the only team in baseball that would pencil him in as the fifth starter. If his health remains steady all season long, the Astros have to feel good about any chances of repeating in 2018.
**Statistics and information courtesy of MLB.com and Baseball Savant**