PHOENIX (AP) -- After dealing with his share of ups and downs since coming up from the minor leagues in June, Braves pitcher Charlie Morton had one of his best games on Thursday night.
Morton allowed five hits over seven shutout innings, Mark Kotsay homered and the Atlanta Braves beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 6-4."I got away with some pitches tonight but overall I thought I threw well," Morton said.Morton's season hit a low point July 28 when he gave up eight runs on seven hits and four walks in 3 2/3 innings against the Cardinals.But he bounced back to hold the Brewers to two runs on four hits in his next start before shutting down the Diamondbacks."I know I'm capable of pitching well," Morton said. "I also know I'm capable of pitching badly. And it can change in a heartbeat."The 24-year-old right-hander walked one and struck out four for his first win since July 12."It's real pleasing to see the progress he's made his last two starts," Kotsay said. "He's going to have his ups and downs but he was consistent tonight.Yunel Escobar was 2-for-4 with two RBIs, Gregor Blanco and Brian McCann each were 2-for-4 with an RBI and Casey Kotchman also drove in a run for the Braves, who won for just the fourth time in 13 games."We came up with a bunch of clutch hitting," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "Once we got them on we were able to get them in."Mike Gonzalez went 1 1/3 innings for his fifth save.Mark Reynolds homered and Arizona starter Yusmeiro Petit (1-3) allowed two runs on four hits and struck out six for the Diamondbacks, who have lost two straight and saw their lead in the NL West slip to 1 1/2 games.Blanco gave the Braves a 1-0 lead in the first when he singled, went to second on a balk, moved to third on Escobar's infield single and scored on a sacrifice fly by Kotchman.Kotsay made it 2-0 in the fifth with a line drive just over the right-field fence for his fifth home run and first since May 20."He got the barrel out front and hit the homer but it wasn't that bad a pitch," Petit said through catcher Miguel Montero.Morton was the only other Braves' baserunner against Petit, reaching on a third-inning double into the left-field corner.Atlanta added four runs in the eighth on a single by Jeff Francouer, a walk to pinch-hitter Greg Norton, consecutive doubles by Blanco and Escobar and Brian McCann's two-out single to take a 6-0 lead."Unfortunately we couldn't hold the game at two-nothing," Montero said. "They got the lead to six-nothing and it's hard coming back the last two innings."The Diamondbacks rallied in the eighth inning, scoring four runs off Blaine Boyer on Chad Tracy's RBI single to center and Reynolds' team-leading 24th home run."I felt like our at-bats were even better early on today," Melvin said. "We hit some line drives at some infielders throughout the game."
The Braves won a series opener for the first time since July 25. ... Tracy turned an unassisted double play in the seventh when he caught Kelly Johnson's line drive and tagged McCann on the heel as he went back to first. ... Morton's double was his first career hit. He was picked off second base by Montero for his first career caught stealing. "I knew that was going to happen," Cox said ... Arizona RF Justin Upton took early batting practice Thursday, his first on-field hitting since straining his left oblique muscle on July 9. Melvin said Upton could begin a minor league rehab assignment as early as Monday. "After the first few swings today, it looked like his normal swing and he was driving the ball out of the ballpark," Melvin said. ... Atlanta 3B Chipper Jones may come off the disabled list on Friday but likely won't return immediately to the Braves' starting lineup. "We'll see what happens," Cox said. "I don't know if he'll be able to play right away. He might have to pinch-hit for a few games." Jones leads the majors with a .369 batting average.