Charlie Morton returned to the clubhouse Saturday afternoon and waited. Then he waited some more, anticipating the arrival of thunderstorms that never materialized.
The delay didn’t faze him, nor did it stop his career-best unbeaten streak.
Morton struck out a season-high 10 and allowed one run over six innings — his 18th straight start without a loss — as the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Cleveland Indians 6-2 in a game that began nearly three hours late because of an incorrect weather forecast.
“Well, it turned out to be a 7 o’clock game, so it wasn’t bad,” he quipped. “Saturday 7 o’clock games are fine, just fine. I wasn’t out there (during the delay), but I heard the wind was really bad, so we just kind of hung out and stayed ready and it turned out all right.”
Morton (5-0), who gave up three hits and threw a season-high 106 pitches, hasn’t lost since last Aug. 11 with Houston. The right-hander is 8-0 with a 3.10 ERA during his streak, which is the second-longest in the majors behind the 19 by the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw.
The first pitch was postponed from 4:10 until 6:58, but the conditions remained dry and warm throughout, except for a several-minute spell of light rain.
“I’m not a weatherman, but when you get those lake effect and storms rolling in here, sometimes they nail you and pop out of nowhere,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We totally understood the situation.
“Charlie didn’t let it bother him and he made some big pitches. What that breaking ball is on, that really is a big equalizer for him like you saw tonight.”
Ji-Man Choi and Tommy Pham each hit two-run homers and Brandon Lowe added a solo shot for Tampa Bay, which is in the midst of playing 34 games in 34 days through June 23. Pham upped his hitting streak to 11 and Lowe had two RBIs.
Choi’s blast to left gave the Rays a 3-1 lead in the fifth, while Pham’s rocket to center in the seventh made it 6-1 and chased Indians starter Carlos Carrasco (4-5).
Carrasco dropped his second straight start, giving up five earned runs in 6 1/3 innings. The righty has surrendered nine homers in 31 innings during five May outings.
“See the fastball and hit it, that’s what they’ve been looking for,” he said. “I feel a little bit disappointed about those pitches because I didn’t locate them.”
Carlos Santana went 2 for 4 with a homer and double for Cleveland, which has lost five of six and fell to 4-6 on its season-high 11-game homestand.
Indians manager Terry Francona was ejected in the sixth by third base umpire Eric Cooper for arguing that José Ramírez did not swing at a pitch that hit him. It was his first ejection since 2016.
“I thought it was a poor call and I told him I thought he had an even poorer night (behind the plate) the night before,” Francona said. “Sometimes their attitude has just as much to do with ejections.”
The Indians recalled LF Greg Allen and selected the contract of LHP Josh D. Smith from Triple-A Columbus. RHP Adam Plutko and C Eric Haase were optioned to the Clippers. The 29-year-old Smith made his big league debut with 1 2/3 scoreless innings. Francona said Allen’s stay could be brief as Cleveland needs a starting pitcher Tuesday in Boston.
Rays: 3B Matt Duffy (left hamstring tightness) has not returned to his rehab assignment at Triple-A Durham since aggravating his injury Wednesday at Norfolk.
Indians: OF Tyler Naquin (left calf strain), who has been on the 10-day injured list since May 11, ran the bases without any issues Friday at Progressive Field.
Rays: RHP Ryne Stanek (0-1, 3.38 ERA) will be the opener in the four-game series finale. Eleven of his 13 starts this year — all two innings or fewer — have been scoreless.
Indians: RHP Trevor Bauer (4-3, 3.95 ERA) takes on Tampa Bay for the first time since June 22, 2016. In five home appearances this season, he is 1-2 with a 6.14 ERA.
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