I mock Best Shape of His Life stories a lot, but it’s not like they’re the only spring training evergreen story out there. Another big one is “guy who imploded last season says he’s got a new attitude this season.” Ladies and gentlemen, Nyjer Morgan, who says he has refocused and simplified his approach to baseball in the offseason:
“I came into it right, real fresh,” Morgan said. “I was able to basically focus on myself, not anybody else. That’s why I feel like I’m ready. I’m not worried about anybody else. I’m not worried about trying to do this, trying to do that. I got to worry about what Nyjer Morgan is able to do.
“I was just immature last year. I just had to go through some stuff. Some people don’t get a chance to go through what I went through last year. Basically, I just take it as a learning lesson. I feel like I’m a lot better of a person than I was last year at this time. I’m ready to go. I’m happy about my offseason, what I did, how I came in prepared. I’ve got to let my game speak for itself now.”
Morgan was immature last year? You don’t say. And yeah, I can understand the need for simplification: there were times last year when he had so many suspension hearings on one day that he couldn’t possible keep his schedule straight!
But the real issue is the “letting his game speak for itself” part. Morgan had by far his worst season as a major leaguer for the Nats, and I can’t help but think a lot of it was based on the fact that he was treated as an everyday player when, really, he just may not be.
Big year for Morgan. A guy with, I dunno, as “colorful” a personality as his can stick in the league a long time if he produces. If not, his act gets tired fast.
For the first time in major league history, both pitchers in a playoff game have struck out at least 11 batters, per MLB.com’s Paul Casella. Mets starter Jacob deGrom has pitched just a hair better than Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw overall. deGrom has blanked the Dodgers on five hits and a walk. Kershaw made one mistake, resulting in a solo home run to Daniel Murphy in the fourth inning. He’s allowed four hits and two walks total.
The last time opposing starters each struck out 10 in a post-season game was back in 1944 in Game 5 of the World Series when Mort Cooper of the St. Louis Cardinals struck out 12 and Denny Galehouse of the St. Louis Browns struck out 10.
Mets outfielder Michael Cuddyer has already made a pair of mistakes in left field and he’s only four innings into the first game of the best-of-five NLDS against the Dodgers.
Leading off the second inning, Justin Turner sent a well-struck liner to Cuddyer which was quite catchable, but the ball clanked off of the veteran’s glove. Turner was credited with a double. Mets starter Jacob deGrom was able to work around the misplay, striking out Andre Ethier, A.J. Ellis, and Clayton Kershaw to close out the frame.
With two outs in the third inning, Corey Seager sent a fly ball down the left field line. Cuddyer took an inefficient route and the ball bounced about a foot inside the foul line, then into the stands, giving Seager a ground-rule double. To add insult to injury, Cuddyer ended up tumbling over the fence. deGrom, again, worked around Cuddyer’s mistake, striking out Adrian Gonzalez to end the inning.
Because he bats right-handed, Cuddyer got the start in left field over the left-handed-hitting rookie Michael Conforto against Kershaw, a southpaw. Conforto mustered only a .481 OPS against lefties this season compared to Cuddyer’s .698. Despite the batting disparity, one wonders how short a leash manager Terry Collins has on Cuddyer given his defense.
Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy broke a scoreless tie in the fourth inning, belting a solo home run to right field at Dodger Stadium off of starter Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw threw a 2-0, 94 MPH fastball and Murphy didn’t miss it.
Both teams’ starters are pitching quite well overall. Kershaw has allowed the one run on three hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Jacob deGrom started off the game with six consecutive strikeouts and has struck out seven total while blanking the Dodgers on three hits and a walk in three innings.
Kershaw doesn’t have the most impressive post-season track record, owning a career 5.12 ERA across eight starts and three relief appearances spanning 51 innings. Aside from the homer, the lefty appears to be putting that notion aside.