Tampa Bay Rays look ahead to Tuesday after taking Game 1 against Astros

After getting the win for Houston in Game 7 of the 2017 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Charlie Morton beat the Astros for Tampa Bay in Game 3 of last year’s AL Division Series.

Morton again faces his former team when he starts Game 2 of the AL Championship Series at Petco Park with the Rays leading 1-0.

“I’d rather not think about it, just stay more even keeled and scout them and go about my business on the mound,” he said Sunday. “And away from the field you can be pals with people.”

The 36-year-old righty spent several seasons pitching for Pittsburgh early in his career. He recalled later facing Pirates players Josh Harrison, Neil Walker and Andrew McCutchen.

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“It’s weird,” he said. “I don’t think you could ever really get used to it, get used to pitching against people that you’re close with. So it’s just one of those things that you just have to deal with every now and then.”

Morton hopes to be able to pitch next year. If Tampa Bay declines his $15 million option, he isn’t sure how much demand there will be for him in what is likely to be a tough free-agent market. He regrets being unable to take his 7- and 3-year-old sons and 6- and 2-year-old daughters to meet teammates in the clubhouse this year and wonders whether coronavirus will be conquered sufficiently for a more normal 2021.

“On a selfish level, I didn’t want this to be the last memory that I had of the game, of the way that it’s had to go with testing, isolation, not being to really enjoy special moments in the clubhouse,” he said. “It’s kind of been sterilized.”

Lance McCullers Jr. is scheduled to start Game 2 for the Astros. Morton and McCullers have enjoyed a lot of success when pitching in the same game, albeit on the same side.

Morton got the win and McCullers earned the save when the Astros beat the Yankees in Game 7 of the 2017 ALCS. Then in the World Series, McCullers started Game 7 and Morton wound up with the win.