BOSTON -- — Pablo Sandoval was happy to be back at Fenway Park for the first time since his disastrous tenure with the Red Sox.
It was the Boston fans who weren't so happy to see him.
“It’s one of the things I was looking forward to,” said Sandoval, who was released by the Red Sox in 2017, midway through his five-year, $95 million contract.
“Great fan support, great organization,” he said. “Things don’t go well some time.”
Morton (3-2) allowed six of the first eight Boston batters to reach base, loading the bases in the first with nobody out and giving up a leadoff triple in the second. But the Red Sox managed only one run in the first two innings, and Morton retired 13 straight batters after Xander Bogaerts’ third-inning single.
“After the first inning, I was hoping he’d go five,” Braves manger Brian Snitker said. “First couple innings, he was struggling a little bit. Then he got in that rhythm — it was real encouraging to see him go seven.”
In all, Morton gave up one unearned run on three hits, striking out nine and walking two in seven innings for his first victory in a month. Freddie Freeman added two hits for the Braves, who won their fourth straight game to improve to .500.
Sandoval won three titles with the San Francisco Giants and was the 2012 World Series MVP before he signed with Boston for the 2015 season. But he played in just 161 games, batting .237 with 14 homers in parts of three seasons, before he was released.
He returned to San Francisco before joining the Braves at the end of last season.
Sandoval lined one up the middle in the sixth to start the rally that chased Boston starter Garrett Richards (4-3), then scored to give the Braves a 3-1 lead. The three hits on Tuesday raised his average to .286.
“We came up around the same time. He’s a postseason legend,” Morton said. “It’s just been a ton of fun. He’s a glue guy. ... Having a chance to play with a guy like that, it’s really special.”
Will Smith pitched the ninth to seal Atlanta's fourth straight win and earn his eighth save.
Richards, who had won four straight decisions, allowed three runs on six hits and four walks, striking out four in 5 2/3 innings. The Red Sox had won seven of their previous 10 games — but still fell out of first place in the AL East for the first time since April 8 while the Rays ran off 11 wins in a row.
Boston loaded the bases with nobody out in the first inning — on one hit, followed by a walk and an error. Bogaerts struck out before Morton hit Rafael Devers with a pitch to score one run; Christian Vázquez lined into a double play to end it.
Danny Santana led off the second with a triple, but Boston stranded him there.
Richards walked William Contreras to lead off the third and then gave up a one-out single to Freeman. Marcell Ozuna doubled in one run to tie it; Freeman scored to make it 2-1 on a fielder's choice that erased Ozuna as he tried to take third.
Braves: LF Ozuna left the game after injuring his left hand when he slid head-first into third base in the third inning. Ozuna banged his fingers into Rafael Devers’ foot and remained on the dirt, in obvious pain, while a trainer ran out to attend to him. He went straight through the dugout into the tunnel. Ehire Adrianza replaced him in the bottom half of the inning.
Snitker said after the game that Ozuna dislocated the ring finger and middle finger of his left hand, adding that Ozuna would return to Atlanta to see the team's hand specialist.
“He wasn’t feeling real bad. But he did them both,” Snitker said. “When you start doing those hand things, all them bones in there, it can get a little tricky.”
Red Sox: Reinstated INF Christian Arroyo (bruised left hand) from the injured list.
Astros will look to even series with Braves in Game 2
Atlanta Braves (88-73, first in the NL East) vs. Houston Astros (95-67, first in the AL West)
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