Morton shuts down A’s in Tampa Bay

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Charlie Morton is proving his worth to the Tampa Bay Rays.

The 35-year-old right-hander, signed to a $30 million, two-year contract in free agency, remained unbeaten with his new team on Monday night, limiting the Oakland Athletics to two hits over seven shutout innings of a 6-2 victory.

The win, Tampa Bay’s sixth in seven games, nudged the Rays ahead of the New York Yankees for first place in the AL East.

Morton (8-0, 2.10 ERA) is one of the reasons the team with one of baseball’s lowest payrolls feels this could be a special season.

“He’s a huge pickup for this team,” center fielder Kevin Kiermaier said after making a leaping catch at the wall to rob Oakland’s Jurickson Profar of an extra-base hit and then delivering a two-run homer for a 4-0 lead in the seventh inning.

“The way Charlie Morton has been going for us all year, the spark and dominance he has brought to the table,” Kiermaier added, “I wanted to make that play for him.”

Brandon Lowe homered for the third time in two days, snapping a scoreless tie in the sixth inning and helping the Rays take a half-game lead over Yankees.

Lowe hit a two-run shot off Tanner Anderson (0-1), who was promoted from Triple-A Las Vegas to make his debut with Oakland, which acquired him from Pittsburgh last November.

Anderson, who went to high school in nearby Tampa, made six relief appearances for the Pirates last season. He allowed two runs and three hits over 5⅔ innings in his first big league start.

“My first dream was to play at this level, and it was awesome when that happened last year,” said Anderson, who had 40 family members and friends in the stands.

“But my second dream is to pitch in Tropicana (Field), so it was awesome,” Anderson added. “A dream come true. Had a lot of support here, which is really cool.”

Morton (8-0) extended his career-best winning streak to 11 games dating to Aug. 17, when he was with the Houston Astros.

The stretch covers 21 starts — 14 of them with Tampa Bay since signing as a free agent — and is the longest active streak in the major leagues.

Morton allowed two hits — singles to Marcus Semien in the first and third innings — and retired the last 14 batters he faced. In addition to Kiermaier’s catch, Morton benefited from Tommy Pham also making a leaping catch at the wall in left field.

The Athletics spent an extra 3½ hours in the clubhouse after Sunday’s game at Texas and didn’t arrive in Florida until after 3 a.m. because their plane was damaged during a thunderstorm. That followed an early morning arrival Friday for a four-game series with the Rangers that included a day-night doubleheader Saturday and a rain delay Sunday.

“Feels like we’ve had five straight nights of naps,” manager Bob Melvin said.

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