By Matt Snyder
In case you didn't know who he was, Michael Morse has been announcing his presence with authority this. It all culminated Friday night, when he slammed a walk-off home run. It was the fourth straight game he'd homered and this one broke a five-game losing streak for the Nationals.
Things didn't look quite so promising as the month of April wound down. Morse was hitting .211 with just one home run, nine RBI and a dreadful .521 OPS. He'd hit into as many double plays (two) as he had collected extra base hits. He struck out more times (21) than he had gotten a hit (15).
Once the calendar turned, something clicked for Morse. He opened the month as a part-time player -- understandably so, after that April -- but slowly began to earn more at-bats. Even before the recent home-run streak, he was hitting .400 in the month with a .967 OPS. Once he got more locked in, the power came. Now, Morse sports a .414 average with five home runs, 11 RBI and a 1.191 OPS in just 47 May plate appearances. Apparently opposing teams haven't noticed he's swinging a hot, because he hasn't been walked -- and, yes, his aggression is part of the equation there, too, as he's never walked much.
Interestingly enough, the Adam LaRoche injury has actually helped the Nationals' offense, as Morse has slid to first base and Laynce Nix (.306/.333/.546) can play left field. With Morse, the Nats have a solid cleanup hitter behind Jayson Werth -- and eventually Ryan Zimmerman.
As the Nats look to compete in one of the most competitive divisions in baseball, bright spots like Morse help serve as a bridge to the time when the Strasburg, Zimmermann, Zimmerman, Storen, Harper nucleus makes them a major player. With the richest owner in baseball and in a major media market, it's coming, too.
Until then, things like Morse going for five straight games with home runs will have to suffice, which is what Nats fans got to watch Saturday afternoon.
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