Minnesota didn’t know what to expect from Justin Morneau to begin the season, playing him at designated hitter instead of first base to avoid aggravating concussion symptoms and watching as he hit just .206 with a .623 OPS through nine games.
However, on Monday he felt good enough to play first base for the first time and Morneau also homered in that game. And then last night he homered again … and again.
Morneau went 3-for-4 with two homers versus the Yankees, which was his first multi-homer game since May 31, 2011. And in his fifth plate appearance manager Joe Girardi issued an intentional walk to Morneau, which was his first since June 1, 2011.
He’s hardly out of the woods yet, but for a guy who’s missed most of the past two seasons with concussions and multiple other injuries Morneau’s last 48 hours have been extremely encouraging. Overall for the season he’s now hitting .279 with four homers, two doubles, and a .945 OPS in 11 games.
MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick reports that the Dodgers plan to tab ace Clayton Kershaw for Game 1 of the World Series. Nothing is set in stone yet ahead of Tuesday’s Game 1 of the World Series. In the event Kershaw can’t start Game 1, Rich Hill would start. Otherwise, Hill would start Game 4.
Kershaw, started Game 1 and Game 5 of the NLCS against the Brewers, then closed out Game 7 with a flawless inning. He was hit around to the tune of five runs (four earned) over three-plus innings in Game 1, but rebounded for seven innings of one-run ball in Game 5. He struck out two en route to sending the Dodgers to the World Series in the ninth inning of Game 7.
Kershaw also tossed eight shutout innings against the Braves in Game 2 of the NLDS. Overall, he has a 2.37 ERA in 19 innings this postseason. There was no doubt who would be the Dodgers’ first choice to start Game 1, but it’s a relatively recent situation where the ace of a team also closed out the final game of the previous series.
Hill has put up a 2.61 ERA in 10 1/3 innings this postseason. While he doesn’t have Kershaw’s pedigree, the Dodgers would be confident having him lead off the series. Hill was excellent down the stretch last year, helping the Dodgers reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Astros.
The Red Sox plan to start Chris Sale in Game 1 now that he’s recovered from a brief stint in the hospital due to a stomach ailment. The lefty has a 3.48 in 10 1/3 innings in the playoffs this year. He’s among a handful of candidates for the AL Cy Young award after posting a 2.11 ERA in the regular season, but his lack of innings (158) may hurt him.