Nationals

Quick Links

Morse finds stroke in opposite field

785468.png

Morse finds stroke in opposite field

Not that anyone was really worried Michael Morse's 0-for-the-season would continue forever, but as the outs started piling up there was at least some question about when hit No. 1 would finally come.

Then Morse erased those doubts in fairly emphatic fashion, lacing a double to right-center in the bottom of the fourth Tuesday night, snapping an 0-for-9 slump to begin his injury-shortened 2012.

Morse admitted he needed to get that first hit out of the way to clear one last mental hurdle associated with the torn lat muscle that sidelined him three months.

"Oh yeah," he said. "The first one, you kind of hit the barrel and you know when that hand-eye coordination comes in. It felt good. And like I said, it kind of clicked."

It certainly looked like things were clicking for Morse eight innings later, when he again drilled a double to right-center, this time striking the wall on the fly, to jump-start the Nationals' game-winning rally.

That display of power to right-center, something Morse put on display throughout his breakthrough 2011 season, was perhaps the surest sign to date he has fully recovered from his injury and is starting to find his groove at the plate after a slow start.

The key, Morse explained, was his ability to let the ball travel deeper into the strike zone and not be overanxious.

"The last couple days, I've been kind of connecting way out in front," he said Tuesday night. "So I've been trying to see the ball deep today. I tried to really focus on right-center. That's my power. That's where I usually hit. So after I hit that first one there, it really felt normal. It felt right."

Manager Davey Johnson noticed the same adjustment from Morse, allowing him to take advantage of his power to the opposite field.

"When you're out a long time like he was, the tendency -- with any hitter, but especially with Michael Morse -- is he's going to be out in front more than he's going to be behind, which is what he was the first couple games," Johnson said. "He hates to get jammed like any hitter, and he was trying to do something with it. So he was a little early. But he stayed with the ball better last night."

Morse figures to remain entrenched in the heart of the Nationals' lineup moving forward, though it appears he'll get at least some defensive break over the weekend when the club heads to Boston.

Needing a designated hitter in American League parks, Johnson said he's likely to tab Morse.

"I had a little discussion with some of my coaches, and I think it would be a good time to DH him, regroup and let him do some throwing," Johnson said. "But he's throwing fine. He's perfectly healthy. He hasn't had any complaints since coming back. And I like the way he's starting to swing the bat, too. But it will give us an opportunity to play some other guys."

Quick Links

Nationals look to avoid sweep against Phillies on Sunday night

Nationals look to avoid sweep against Phillies on Sunday night

WASHINGTON -- Having already won their first series at Nationals Park since April 2016, the Philadelphia Phillies will go for the sweep of Washington on Sunday night.

Phillies right-hander Nick Pivetta (4-6, 4.08 ERA) faces Nationals right-hander Jefry Rodriguez (0-0, 4.66).

Pivetta was drafted by the Nationals in 2013 and went to the Phillies in 2015 as part of the Jonathan Papelbon trade.

After struggling for three straight starts -- giving up 13 runs in 14 innings -- Pivetta allowed two runs and four hits in 7 1/3 innings of a no-decision against the St. Louis Cardinals last time out, striking out a career-high 13 batters.

"That's some of the best stuff I've seen him have all year," catcher Andrew Knapp told mlb.com. "The curveball was electric."

Pivetta got 11 swings and misses with the curveball.

"It was nice to have it back," Pivetta told mlb.com. "It all started with my delivery. I was staying up through it, not trying to rush too much and it worked out."

It his first start -- and second big-league appearance -- the 24-year-old Rodriguez picked up a win against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday. He allowed five runs, four hits and three walks in five innings.

Rodriguez and Satuday's losing pitcher, Erick Fedde, are filling in for injured starters Stephen Strasburg and Jeremy Hellickson.

The Phillies have outscored the Nationals 17-5 in the fist two games of the series. On Saturday, Maikel Franco had four hits and Carlos Santana homered to back Aaron Nola in a 5-3 victory.

"That was just a tremendous all-around baseball game," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said of Franco. "It's so interesting how we've been looking for him to be not just a hitter but a defender and a baserunner and an all-around athlete."

Franco drove in a run and scored twice, including the go-ahead run when he scored just ahead of the tag on Jesmuel Valentin's sacrifice fly.

The Phillies, who have won six of seven, pounded out double-digit hits for the second day in a row in Washington.

"They have a lot of patient hitters," Fedde said of the Phillies. "I think that's what makes it tough. Guys aren't swinging at bunch of junk, so you have to attack them."

The Phillies have now won four straight series for the first time since May 2016 and are 2-0 in what will be a stretch of 10 games against the Nationals and the New York Yankees.

Anthony Rendon homered and Daniel Murphy had a two-run single for Washington, which has lost three of four while scoring nine runs.

"Look, I've got all the confidence in the world we're going to start hitting," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "We'll start scoring some runs. Right now, the bullpen is a little beat up. We've got to get them going again."

Rendon is doing his part. In his las 15 games, he is batting .382 with seven doubles, two homers and 12 RBIs.

Hellickson (right groin strain) will make a rehab start Sunday for Class A Potomac and then is expected to rejoin the Nationals' rotation.

Hernandez said first baseman Ryan Zimmerman (right oblique strain) is about a week from beginning a rehab assignment.

Quick Links

Bryce Harper will compete in Home Run Derby, but only on one condition

bryce-harper-usat.jpg
USA Today Sports

Bryce Harper will compete in Home Run Derby, but only on one condition

It’s happening.

When the 2018 All-Star Weekend comes to Washington, D.C. in the middle of July, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper will compete in the 2018 Home Run Derby, but only on one condition: He has to be a member of the 2018 National League All-Star Team.

Though Harper is having a down year, only hitting .213 thus far, he leads the NL in home runs with 19.

In the June 18 update of All-Star game voting, Harper sat second among all outfielders with just north of 1,000,000 votes.

That means he’s not only going to make the All-Star team, but he’ll likely start in the outfield.

Harper, a five-time All-Star, competed in the Home Run Derby once before. He was the runner-up to Yoenis Cespedes in 2013, losing by just one long ball, 9-8.

The 2018 Home Run Derby will take place on July 16 at Nationals Park.

MORE NATS NEWS: