Mike Morse stating his case for starting left field job

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Many argued that Mike Morse deserved a larger role with the Nationals after he batted .289/.352/.519 with 15 homers in 266 at-bats as a part-time player last season, but he came into camp without a clear path to playing time following the offseason additions of Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche and Rick Ankiel.

Let’s just say he’s trying to force his way into the lineup.

Including a two-run homer off A.J. Burnett earlier this afternoon, Morse is batting .481 (13-for-27) with five home runs, two doubles and nine RBI this spring.

It’s tough to put too much emphasis on spring training statistics, but Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo told Ben Goessling of MASNSports.com this morning that Morse has already made an impression.

“He’s gotten an opportunity, and he’s taken the bull by the horns,” Rizzo said. “If opening day was tomorrow, he certainly would be our opening day left fielder.”

Of course, the right-handed hitting Morse is no lock to be a productive everyday player. Though he batted .287 against right-handed pitching last season, an encouraging sign in limited duty, the 28-year-old has never received more than total 300 plate appearances in a single season in the majors. He’s also a below-average defender in the outfield.

Assuming the Nationals let Morse sink or swim in left field — and really, they might as well see what they have here — that would mean Ankiel and/or Roger Bernadina would have to wrestle the center field job away from Nyjer Morgan.

Brewers on the brink of their first pennant in 36 years

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A series that had swung back and forth twice already swung back in Milwaukee’s favor last night with a convincing win. That it was convincing — it was not at all close after the second inning — is a key factor heading into today, as Craig Counsell has his bullpen set up nicely to shorten the game if his Brewers can get an early lead.

Josh Hader — who, if you are unaware, has not allowed a run and has struck out 12 batters in seven innings of postseason work — did not pitch yesterday or in Game 5. As such, he’s had three full days off. Given that this is a win or go home day and, if they win, he’s guaranteed two more days off before the World Series, he’s good for two innings and could very well go for three. That’s not what you want if you’re the Dodgers.

But it gets worse. Jeremy Jeffress pitched last night but it was only one pretty easy inning, so he could go two if he has to. Corey Knebel pitched an inning and two-thirds but he could probably give Counsell an inning of work if need be. Joakim Soria didn’t pitch at all yesterday. Between those guys and the less important relievers, all of whom save Brandon Woodruff are all pretty fresh, the Dodgers aren’t going to have any easy marks.

But the thing is: Counsell may not need to go that deep given that Jhoulys Chacin, their best starter of the postseason, gets the start. So, yes, in light of that, you have to like the Brewers’ chances tonight, and that’s before you realize that the home crowd is going to be louder than hell.

Not that the Dodgers are going to roll over — it’ll be all hands on deck for them with every pitcher except for Hyun-Jim Ryu available, you figure — but if they’re going to repeat as NL champs, they’re going to have to earn it either by bloodying Chacin’s nose early and neutralizing the threat of facing Hader and company with a lead, or by marching through the teeth of the Brewers bullpen and coming out alive on the other side.
NLCS Game 6

Dodgers vs. Brewers
Ballpark: Miller Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: FS1
Pitchers:  Walker Buehler vs. Jhoulys Chacin
Breakdown:

The most important part of this breakdown — the stuff about the Brewers’ pen — has already been said and, I presume anyway, the starters here will have the shortest of leashes. Chacin’s will be longer, as he has not allowed a run over 10 and a third innings in his first two postseason starts, making him the Brewers’ defacto ace. Every inning he goes tonight makes things much, much harder for the Dodgers once he’s gone as it means Milwaukee will be able to rely more and more on Hader and Jeffress, so the Dodgers had best get to him early.

Buehler has come up weak so far this postseason, having allowed nine runs in 12 innings, including surrendering four runs on six hits over seven innings in Milwaukee’s Game 3 victory. Still, it’s not hard to remember how dominating he was in the second half of the season. If that Buehler shows up and can keep things close, we’ll have a ballgame. If L.A. finds itself in an early hole once again, theirs will be the tallest of orders.