GAME 50 REVIEW: Morse Walks-Off with Win

Posted by Dave Nichols | Saturday, May 28, 2011 | , , , , , | 0 comments »

This was just about how you would expect a game between the two worst offenses in the league to go.  The Washington Nationals and San Diego Padres combined for three runs, seven hits and five walks, but the biggest hit of all was the very last one.

On the first pitch in the bottom of the ninth, red-hot slugger Michael Morse took Mike Adams' flat 89-MPH slider deep into the visitors' bullpen, delivering a 2-1 win and ending the Nationals' five-game losing streak, before 21,024 at Nationals Park.  The Nats overall record now stands at 22-28.

After the game, the Nats announced that LHP Tom Gorzelanny was placed on the 15-day D.L. with left elbow inflammation, retroactive to May 24.  They did not announce a corresponding move, but Gorzelanny was scheduled to pitch Sunday.

The blast made a winner out of Drew Storen, though all things considered he would probably rather that honor belonged to starter John Lannan. 

Lannan was his ground-ball inducing best last night, recording 14 of his 23 outs on the ground.  He also struck out five, against two hits and two walks.  The only real trouble he was in all night was the top of the eighth, when after two outs he allowed an opposite field single to former Nats infielder Alberto Gonzalez and walked pinch-hitter Brad Hawpe.

Manager Jim Riggleman called on Storen with two on and two outs and he did his job in the high-leverage spot, striking out Chris Denorfia on a wicked slider for a called strike three to hold the Nats lead at 1-0, keeping Lannan in line for the victory.  But upon returning for the ninth, Storen caught too much of the plate with a 94-MPH fastball and shortstop Jason Bartlett jumped on it, sending it just over the wall in left field.  The result was Storen's first blown save of the season in 10 opportunities.

Storen hung his head briefly when he saw the ball leave the park, but he buckled down and mowed through the next three batters, striking out Jorge Cantu and Cameron Maybin to end the inning tied at one, setting up Morse's heroics.

Morse has now homered in four straight games, joining Ryan Zimmerman (Aug. 2009) in that lofty club. He finished 2-for-4 and has his slash line up to .288/.310/.475 for the season.  He also made a couple of nice plays at first base on low throws, which is good since he'll be playing a lot of first base for the foreseeable future.

“We’ve all seen this from Mike.  We saw it last year, [and] at spring training." Riggleman said in his post-game comments.  "It got away from him a little bit. Now he’s just playing baseball, not necessarily trying to hold on to a position, just go try to play the game. He’s not over-thinking things. He’s just hacking and the ball really jumps off his bat.”

Danny Espinosa homered in the fifth inning and went 1-for-2 with a walk and a stolen base.

The Nationals really needed a win last night.  Coming home from a brutal 1-7 road trip, star players making veiled comments about changes needing to be made, and losing their first baseman for an extended period of time, this team really needed to sleep in their own beds and re-focus on their job.  For one night, anyway, they found the answer they've been looking for.

THE GOOD:  Lannan.  He was outstanding last night, getting grounder after grounder to go right to a fielder.  It doesn't always work like that, but on the nights that the other team isn't making good contact it's fun to watch.  He also struck out five, which is a good sign for him and takes a little pressure off the fielders.

THE BAD:  Despite the win, the Nats managed just four hits, and both their runs came via solo homers.

THE UGLY:  Jerry Hairston was ejected on a very strange play at the plate.  He asked for time when he thought Padres starter Clayton Richard quick-pitched him, but the request was not honored by home plate umpire Ed Hickox.  Hairston jumped back into the batter's box and lofted a lazy fly ball to center for an out.  Instead of running out the pop up, Hairston turned around and laid into Hickox and was instantly ejected before Riggleman could get out of the dugout to defend his player.

THE STATS:  Four hits, three walks, two strikeouts.  0-for-3 with RISP, five LOB, 0 GIDP.  No errors.

NEXT GAME:  Saturday at 1:05 pm against the Padres.  Jordan Zimmermann (2-5, 3.98) faces Tim Stauffer (0-3, 3.88).