Saturday, June 30, 2012

A defining blast for Morse

Associated Press photo
The Nationals' dugout was all smiles after Michael Morse's go-ahead home run.
ATLANTA -- As he grabbed a bat and helmet before the eighth inning Friday night, Michael Morse stopped to let manager Davey Johnson his hamstring was acting up a little bit and that he might need a pinch-runner if he reached base.

"It's fine," Morse insisted later. "It was tightening up a little bit in Colorado. He told if I feel anything to let him know, so I said: 'I feel a little bit. A little tired.' That was it."

Yes, that was it in more ways than one. Because when Morse promptly crushed the first pitch he saw from Chad Durbin into the right-center field bleachers, he no longer had reason to test that weak hamstring. He could take as much time as he needed to trot around the bases, his solo homer having just given the Nationals a 5-4 lead over the Braves they would not relinquish.

As Johnson said to Morse as the latter returned to the dugout: "That's the way to keep me from running for you."

Morse's tie-breaking blast was a fitting way to cap this tense game that saw some wild swings of emotion and momentum over the final few innings. Up 4-0 most of the night thanks to the offensive exploits of Morse (4-for-4), Ian Desmond (2-run double) and Jesus Flores (solo homer) and six innings of pitching brilliance from Ross Detwiler, the Nationals nearly collapsed.

Given a chance to complete a seventh inning for only the third time in 56 career starts, Detwiler suffered through a major meltdown. In a span of minutes, he plunked one batter, mishandled a comebacker, was charged with a balk, served up an RBI single and then served up the game-tying home run to rookie Andrelton Simmons on a letter-high curveball.

What thoughts were racing through Detwiler's mind as he slumped over on the mound, hands on knees as Simmons rounded the bases to a roar from the Turner Field crowd of 32,299?

"I can't really say that on camera," the left-hander said with a smile. "They gave me four runs, and I gave them all back. Obviously I'm not going to be very happy about that."

That late implosion soiled an otherwise brilliant start for Detwiler, who carried a streak of 18 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings into that fateful bottom of the seventh. This outing might not have ended the way he wanted, but it nonetheless came at a most opportune time for a Nationals club that needed eight innings out of its bullpen the previous day in Denver and thus desperately needed a lengthy outing from its No. 5 starter.

"I'll tell you, Det gave us just what the doctor ordered," Johnson said. "It's a shame that he made really one bad pitch and it cost him the ballgame. But a strong effort. We needed it so bad, I can't even tell you."

In the end, Johnson needed to turn to his two best relievers -- Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard -- to record the game's final seven outs. Burnett wound up inducing a double play from Matt Diaz to end the eighth. Clippard managed to escape a self-made jam in the ninth, stranding the tying runner in scoring position after a leadoff double to earn his 13th save in as many tries since assuming the closer's role.

"I wasn't expecting to be my sharpest, by any means, but I was little more off than I wanted to be," said the right-hander, who hadn't appeared in a game in six days. "It's something I've experienced before in the past. I feel like when I'm not feeling my best, I can make it work. And that's what I had to do tonight."

Clutch pitching performances aside, it was Morse's clutch home run that ultimately made this victory possible.

It's been a long, slow road back from a torn lat muscle for the outfielder, who needed nearly a month of big-league at-bats to rediscover his hitting stroke. Throughout his early struggles, Morse tried to convince himself it would all come back, he just needed to stay patient.

But that's easier said than done.

"It's very tough. Very tough," he said. "Right off the bat, you're trying to go out there and do some impossible stuff. But when everything fails, you've got to go back to square one. That's just: Go up there, see the ball, hit it, try to have quality at-bats every time."

Morse has had plenty of those in the last week. He's now 12 for his last 19, a stretch during which he's raised his batting average from .217 to .294 and completely changed the makeup of the Nationals' lineup.

"Oh my goodness, my goodness," Johnson said, adding he plans to move Morse back to the cleanup spot on a daily basis.

Last year's team MVP couldn't have picked a better time to deliver his biggest hit of 2012, a knockout blow against a division rival that further solidified the Nationals' standing as the team to beat in the NL East.

"We've been playing a lot of close games, and we're comfortable in those games," Clippard said. "But this atmosphere tonight was a lot like a playoff atmosphere. I've never been in the playoffs, but I can imagine. It's huge for us, especially because we're a young team and we need these games to get us confidence when it's going to count down the stretch. And I think it does that."

41 comments:

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

BEAST TO THE RESCUE

Clip&Store said...

unfortunately with work i missed this whole game but from what i am seeing, boy is it nice to get back east. Morse Horse seems to be hitting! Great win, exactly what we needed after that mess of a split in colorado

peric said...

Mikey Mo's bat is back ... and Adam LaRoche and Zim are about to swap. It'll be interesting to see what happens between now and the trade deadline now.

baseballswami said...

So odd during one of the times MM was on base. The pitcher kept throwing over like he was a stealing threat. No scouting report? They also pitched to Bernie with Burnett on deck and I believe two outs. Not very Braves organization-like. Of course, the real offensive heroes have been in the number 9 spot!!!

NatsJack in Florida said...

And another day starting out with a 3 1/2 game lead in the Division.

And Strasburg going for win #10. Ahhh, these good times.

MicheleS said...

Swami, Not very Braves organization-like. This is what happens when Bobby Cox retires - see Last Septembers gack. Which can only help us!

Good to see the Beast Hitting. Coors Field, the ultimate slump buster!!!

baseballswami said...

Apparently Turner Field used to be known as the launching pad before Coors opened. Hope our hitters know that. On the morning after , I am even more ok with Ross last night. That atmosphere was very hostile to a visiting team, the heat was record-breaking and he has almost never gone that deep into a game. All of our starters have had a bad inning at some point - STras and Gio usually have them at the beginning - and then there's EJax - JZim's is usually the sixth. Ross fell apart quickly in the 7th - uncharted waters for him - against some good hitters in a stressful game.Probably a good learning experience for him. And he is still much too skinny.

MicheleS said...

Since this will be our thread probably until game time.. just wanted to point out another excellent, yet sad story by Kilgore. He stayed in CO apparantly.

CO Fires

NatsLady said...

Yeah, I should not be posting/reading the game thread!! Ross did fine, as Davey said, saved the BP. Combination of being tired and overconfident--he's the 5th starter for a reason.

Back to 1-run games. Burnett is turning into this year's Clippard with those clutch "holds" (in this case--win!).

I see the Rox got 10 runs again. Can't imagine playing 81 games a year there.

Yanks want LannOn===> or at least their fans do. Unfortunately, they don't have much we want.

NatsLady said...

MicheleS-- just read the story. Also two people killed in the storm last night and 1.5 million without power in record-breaking heat today. Check on your neighbors and pets, it ain't gonna be fun, Pepco is talking "days" before all power is restored and them is gonna be some hot days.

MicheleS said...

Anyone else having FIOS Problems? I am only getting 2 channels (MLB & MASN - good thing for today's game). I have lights/phone/internet, but oddly no TV

Hope everyone closer into the City is okay and stay safe people!

realdealnats said...

Everyone talks a lot about Davey's moves--good ones, bad ones--I loved hearing last night how they did not run on Ank and Harp in the 9th--and both with possibly a little off their usual velocity. Good move Davey. Also as much as it was a sign of disrespect to Shark for not walking Burnett, how much of a vote of confidence in Sean and Clip to say "hey we'll beat you with our A pen now, even with a man on 3rd I'd like to get in." I know there was no one else much to pitch, but still some real confidence moves with the OF and the BP when he finally made them. Ank and Harp's arms...they got big Reps...got big Reps...

RickH said...

Our power went out last night (western Prince William County) so I didn't see the end of the game. But it came back on about an hour ago. We're very relieved. Also glad the Nats are out of town.

Go Stras! GYFNG!!!

NatsLady said...

Also glad the Nats are out of town.

Me, too. Another one just like the other one today. Temps above 100 and destructive evening storms predicted.

baseballswami said...

In Eastern Prince William and didn't lose power but have debris all over the place - it can wait for cooler temps to be cleaned up. I am thinking that even though the Nats weren't here last night, it's pretty hot down there, too. Those uniforms and caps are not very cool.I hope everyone is ok. I think they had to cancel the golf tournament today.Stay cool -- let's stay inside and chat about the nats! Strassie today - hope he is over his Rockie Mountain Low.

NatsLady said...

No power at my studio (Baileys Crossroads). This could be a day without pay and NOT one I wanted!! This needs to happen when I can go to a game, ha ha. Maybe they will get it back later...

ehay2k said...

I saw Morse's blast, then the power went out. Pretty good timing.

Still no power here, all internet access provided by battery-powered devices. Will not get it on soon , as a tree took out a power pole - snapped it like a twig - one block from our house. Crazy pattern of destruction in that houses and trees one block either way saw no damage. It was as if a bowling ball ran ESE through the neighborhood. May be without power, TV, internet, and phone for a few days. No Nats games?!? :'(

Hope everyone else is safe.

natsfan1a said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
natsfan1a said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
natsfan1a said...

Fell asleep in front of the tv and opened my eyes in time to see the game tied up at 4-4. Toddled off to bed to the sound of stormy weather. My cell phone (Tracfone) has no service but everything else is fine. Not much debris in the yard either.

My husband said our power went off about 10:30 PM (Fairfax County here, and yes, I do sleep like a rock), but it was back on this morning, and I got to read a happy game results email (yay). I went downstairs to watch the rest of the game, which I'd recorded. My husband came downstairs asking about breakfast (pancakes) just after I watched the last out. How's that for timing? :-)

Another_Sam said...

No power, no nothing here in NoVa. Sports Bar!

Knoxville Nat said...

Swami....It's definitely pretty hot down here in the south land. Temps today are forecasted to be over 100, possibly as high as 105. ATL is about 3.5 - 4 hours drive from here so I imagine it is every bit as hot there as it is here in TN.

NatsLady said...

Why do they schedule day games on June 30th in Atlanta? About 4 p.m. it will be baking!

NatsLady said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NCNatsie said...

Triple digits here in Raleigh, too, Knoxville.

Hey, was anybody thinking what I was when Bryce came up with the bases loaded in the 8th? Hit one out here and its ASG for abso-flippin-lutely-certain.

NatsLady said...

NCN--yes. Problem was, Harper was probably thinking the same. Should have walked.

natsfan1a said...

Evidently we lucked out in our neighborhood. Power is out at our Giant, and they're on backup power. Their power must have been out for some time, as they'd disposed of all fresh and frozen products, with dry and canned goods available, plus pallets loaded with bags of ice. The registers were open, but belts aren't working and you need to pay with credit because the debit system is out. Our development has power, but the one next door has been without it since last night. Hope that all Insiders are safe and sound, whether with or without power (and if without, that they get it back sooner rather than later).

On a baseball note, was watching the Weather Channel and they're expecting record-breaking heat in Hotlanta today (105 degrees, I think they said). Eesh. Hope Mark and our guys can stay hydrated and as cool as possible under those conditions.

baseballswami said...

The game is at 4 today? That is probably going to be the hottest part of the day. We talk about Ross being thin, STrassie isn't a great big guy,either. Hope he paces himself.

TimDz said...

Power back in Stafford, Virginia!!!!

Too bad I missed the last part of the game, but I DID get to see Beast Mode's Blast

sm13 said...

Yes, it is darn hot in Atlanta today, but there's a surprising lack of humidity. Hoping for Stras to go a strong 7 innings.

TimDz said...

baseballswami said...
The game is at 4 today? That is probably going to be the hottest part of the day. We talk about Ross being thin, STrassie isn't a great big guy,either. Hope he paces himself.

__________________________________

I think that SS is in much better physical condition. He just needs to use that rosin bag to keep his hand dry.

JamesFan said...

Hey, it's hot on both teams. Baseball is a summer game played outside.

peric said...

MicheleS-- just read the story. Also two people killed in the storm last night and 1.5 million without power in record-breaking heat today. Check on your neighbors and pets, it ain't gonna be fun, Pepco is talking "days" before all power is restored and them is gonna be some hot days.

That's going to continue and get worse with time I'm afraid. Power consumption in the area is just way too high. Too many people, large scale power consumption sinks juxtaposed and concentrated in one area. The NSA foresaw this and was considering parking retired nuclear subs in the Severn River and sucking power from their reactors. Perhaps its still a possibility considering there's is no place to put those things that's truly safe.

peric said...

Yes, it is darn hot in Atlanta today, but there's a surprising lack of humidity. Hoping for Stras to go a strong 7 innings.

I'll take the heat over the sand gnats in Savannah.

Steady Eddie said...

In Silver Spring/Forest Glen, power long gone and trees down across every other neighborhood street. Luckily we had no damage other than tree limbs and are enroute to a wedding (of all places) Philly where I plan to represent at the brunch Subday morning in my HOF Nats cap! So if the bats keep rolling and Stras gets back on the winning track, should be a good weekend until I get back home and see if the power is back on...

Meanwhile GYFNG!

NatsLady said...

Here, this will make you smile--I did, anyway.

oh-no-not-another-18-awful-mlb-licensed-caps

http://mlb.sbnation.com/2012/6/30/3122882/oh-no-not-another-18-awful-mlb-licensed-caps

NatsLady said...

Interesting about the hitting coaches. Note, they worked with him off-season...

Strasburg vs. Heyward

http://espn.go.com/blog/statsinfo/post/_/id/46091/a-detailed-look-at-heywards-new-approach

SonnyG10 said...

I have Verizon FIOS (Reston, VA)and I lost TV near the end of the Nats game last night. I quickly switched on the radio, but after a couple of minutes the TV came back on. This morning our interned connection was out for a couple of hours, but now every thing is back to normal.

baseballswami said...

Funny thing - 2 of the only channels I have on FIOS are mlb and masn -- kinda cool.

MicheleS said...

Looks like everything is up and running in Loudoun again..Hope everyone is well!

NatsLady said...

Went out to Baileys Crossroads--MISTAKE. Nothing is open at all, except one McDonald's which must be on a generator and was mobbed. No traffic lights working. And everyone out driving in their airconditioned cars, so LOTS of traffic. Fortunately everyone observing the 4-way stop at intersections.

Post a Comment