Nyjer Morgan thinks Ricky Nolasco purposely plunked him

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Ricky Nolasco hit Nyjer Morgan with a pitch yesterday and Morgan said afterward that he believes it was on purpose, as payback for his a) separating catcher Chris Hayes’ shoulder on a collision at the plate and then b) charging the mound and throwing a punch at Chris Volstad the next day.

Both those incidents occurred during the final month of the season and resulted in a seven-game suspension for Morgan, so if Nolasco and the Marlins were indeed holding a grudge it wouldn’t have taken a particularly long memory.

Here’s what Morgan told Bill Ladson of MLB.com yesterday when asked if the plunking was on purpose:

No question, without a doubt. It’s obvious because of what happened last year. Obviously, they haven’t turned the page. But I’m going to be a stronger player, better person. I’m not going to react to it.

Morgan went on to say that, rather than get into another altercation, he chose to simply take first base, steal second base, and come around to score a run. Or as he put it: “I felt more satisfied after that than staring at him and putting on my mean mug.”

Ladson reports that “Nolasco denied trying to hit Morgan on purpose” and also hit Danny Espinosa in what was his first appearance of the spring after being sidelined by a thumb injury. No word yet on the status of Nolasco’s mean mug.

Justin Verlander named ALCS MVP

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Following the Astros’ decisive 4-0 shutout over the Yankees on Saturday night, Justin Verlander was named the Most Valuable Player of the American League Championship Series. Hall of Fame outfielder and former MLB manager Frank Robinson handed the award to Verlander, who was beaming as he thanked his teammates and members of the Astros’ organization.

“I’ve got to say, it came down to the wire, and one thing kept going off in my head was Dallas,” Verlander told the crowd gathered at Minute Maid Park. “When he called me, he said that I won’t regret my decision to join the Houston Astros. And here we are right now, it’s the best feeling in the world. We’ve got four more wins to win a World Series, and I do not regret my decision to come here. This is the best feeling a player can have. So, thank you.”

Among a cast that boasted the likes of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Dallas Keuchel, among others, Verlander was spectacular. He locked down a complete game win in Game 2, holding the Yankees to one run on five hits and a walk and striking out a postseason-high 13 batters. In Game 6, he saved the Astros from elimination with seven scoreless innings, helping propel the club to their eventual 7-1 finish that set up their series-clinching finale on Saturday.

The 34-year-old righty also took his place among some postseason greats. Thanks to an eight-strikeout outing on Friday night, his collective 136 postseason strikeouts are good for sixth-most in MLB playoff history, just a smidgen shy of Tom Glavine (143), Mike Mussina (145), Roger Clemens (173), Andy Pettitte (183) and John Smoltz (199). He also joined Bob Gibson, Curt Schilling and Sandy Koufax as one of just four hurlers to strike out 20+ Yankees in a postseason series.