Michael Morse aggravates lat muscle tear, will be in “total shutdown mode” for six weeks

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Michael Morse was on the verge of coming off the disabled list when he experienced pain while throwing on his minor-league rehab assignment and the news on the Nationals left fielder isn’t good.

General manager Mike Rizzo told reporters that Morse aggravated his torn lat muscle and will be in “total shutdown mode” for at least six weeks, adding that surgery is not an option to repair the injury.

That would still leave some time for Morse to potentially return before the All-Star break, but given his previous setback seeing him in the Nationals’ lineup before the second half seems unlikely. Morse is a huge loss, as he emerged as one of the league’s top hitters during the past two seasons while batting .298 with 31 homers and an .896 OPS in 163 games.

Calling up Bryce Harper from Triple-A to replace Morse isn’t a consideration according to Rizzo, so instead the Nationals will turn to some combination of Mark DeRosa, Xavier Nady, and Roger Bernadina in bigger roles.

Umpire Cory Blaser made two atrocious calls in the top of the 11th inning

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The Astros walked off 3-2 winners in the bottom of the 11th inning of ALCS Game 2 against the Yankees. Carlos Correa struck the winning blow, sending a first-pitch fastball from J.A. Happ over the fence in right field at Minute Maid Park, ending nearly five hours of baseball on Sunday night.

Correa’s heroics were precipitated by two highly questionable calls by home plate umpire Cory Blaser in the top half of the 11th.

Astros reliever Joe Smith walked Edwin Encarnación with two outs, prompting manager A.J. Hinch to bring in Ryan Pressly. Pressly, however, served up a single to left field to Brett Gardner, putting runners on first and second with two outs. Hinch again came out to the mound, this time bringing Josh James to face power-hitting catcher Gary Sánchez.

James and Sánchez had an epic battle. Sánchez fell behind 0-2 on a couple of foul balls, proceeded to foul off five of the next six pitches. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Sánchez appeared to swing and miss at an 87 MPH slider in the dirt for strike three and the final out of the inning. However, Blaser ruled that Sánchez tipped the ball, extending the at-bat. Replays showed clearly that Sánchez did not make contact at all with the pitch. James then threw a 99 MPH fastball several inches off the plate outside that Blaser called for strike three. Sánchez, who shouldn’t have seen a 10th pitch, was upset at what appeared to be a make-up call.

The rest, as they say, is history. One pitch later, the Astros evened up the ALCS at one game apiece. Obviously, Blaser’s mistakes in a way cancel each other out, and neither of them caused Happ to throw a poorly located fastball to Correa. It is postseason baseball, however, and umpires are as much under the microscope as the players and managers. Those were two particularly atrocious judgments by Blaser.