Morton merely mortal for Rays, question becomes what's next

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Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Charlie Morton reacts after giving up two runs against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the third inning in Game 3 of the baseball World Series Friday, Oct. 23, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

ARLINGTON, Texas – Charlie Morton made the slow stroll to the dugout after one of the worst starts of his stellar, and somewhat improbable, four-year postseason run.

Could that walk be his last?

The lanky right-hander allowed seven hits and five runs in 4 1/3 innings of a 6-2 loss to Los Angeles in Game 3 of the World Series on Friday night, ending Morton's bid to tie Orlando Hernandez's record eight straight winning postseason decisions. The Dodgers lead the series 2-1.

It was the first time the Dodgers had seen Morton in the postseason since he threw four scoreless innings to finish Houston's 5-1 win in Game 7 of the 2017 World Series in LA.

“I never really felt comfortable out there,” Morton said. “Even in playoff games, I’m able to eventually get there if I don’t get there early. And I just never did. Combine that with who they are with the bat, and it made for a rough night.”

Morton was coming off a victory over the Astros in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series that extended his major league record to four career victories in winner-take-all games. It was the second of two scoreless outings against Houston in the ALCS.

This one wasn't winner-take-all, and Morton was rather ordinary in an otherwise extraordinary postseason career for an understated, and largely unknown, pitcher who overcame Tommy John elbow surgery and two hip operations to turn a 46-71 record through his first nine big league seasons into a 47-18 mark since.

“He’s set the bar as high as anybody in the game right now in postseason success on the mound,” manager Kevin Cash said. “You hate to say ‘shocking’ because that’s unfair to Charlie. A couple of pitches here or there he’d like to have back, we’d like to have back just to keep us in the game a little longer.”