Mike Morse, an inside-the-park grand slam, and a reasonably well-played Nationals game
At 6-5, 230 pounds, Mike Morse can sometimes be exactly the slugger he looks like. He launched his second home run of the spring Sunday, a three-run missile that sailed over the left-center fence on a line. In his next at-bat, Morse drove a long fly to the warning track in center.
In 15 at-bats this spring, Morse has two home runs and a double. Capable of playing four positions, Morse is continued his push to make the Nationals bench. Manager Jim Riggleman said his hot start owes to his offseason work ethic.
"Mike is always ready to play," Riggleman said. "Mike took about 10 days or two weeks off after the season last year. He started hitting in October, and he's never stopped hitting. He's a year-round guy, looking for somebody to throw him batting practice, take swings. He's dedicated to his profession. He's in mid-season form."
Morse, 27, feels more at ease now than at any other spring camp of his career. He attributed some of his success to his relaxed mindset.
"I've gotten older now," Morse said. "I've got to play my game. I can't worry about things. With that mentality, it makes things flow better. [Making the team] is the last thing I'm thinking about these days. I'm going out to try and fun and try to let my talent come out."
Morse hit the game's normal home run, and the other requires some explaining. In the second inning, Jason Marquis loaded the bases on three walks and a single - he later said he was "guiding" the ball too much. Up came Omir Santos, who ripped a grounder down the third-base line and into the corner.
Willy Taveras tracked down the ball and saw it was lodged under the fence. He raised his hand, and third base umpire Paul Nauert raised his before ambling out to inspect. When Nauert did not rule the play dead, Taveras tried to rip the ball loose. By the time he did, Santos had wheeled around the bases. Taveras was left to shrug in the outfield. He believed Nauert had not run to the outfield quickly enough to make the proper, which forced him to try prying it out.
"If that happened during the season, somebody is going to get thrown out the game," Taveras said. "I raised my hand, and he didn't even run over there. The ball got stuck and I raised my hand. He didn't run over there. He's supposed to run over there."
Marquis got charged with giving up a grand slam on a groundball, something he's never done before. "I don't think so other than Little League, maybe," he said.
That play was a little odd, to say the least, and the Nationals lost again. But this game felt a lot different than their first four, when they allowed at least 10 runs in each. Matt Chico, Jason Bergmann, Drew Storen and Ron Villone combined to allow no runs on two hits in five innings. The Nationals pounded 11 hits. They ran the bases well and hard. They made no errors.
"We played a good ballgame," Riggleman said. "I'll take that ballgame right there. In season, we won't take it, because you lost. For where we're at here in spring training, I'll take that ballgame."
March 7, 2010; 5:38 PM ET
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