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Posted at 02:15 AM ET, 05/25/2011

Michael Morse is heating up

The first opportunity Michael Morse earned to play every day slipped through his fingers, and again he became a player who ambled over to the lineup card each day and wondered. Recent circumstances gave Morse another opportunity, this one coming without any declarations in regard to his playing status. He still shows up and wonders, and that, for him, seems to work best.

Tuesday night, Morse continued his surge as the Nationals’ hottest hitter. One night after he hit a massive opposite-field homer, he went 3 for 5 with a grand slam, a single and a double. He made the most painful out of the Nationals’ 7-6 loss, flying out to right with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth.

But still, Morse is playing like what their slumbering offense needs: a streaky hitter getting hot. Since May began, Morse is hitting .410/.410/.718 with three homers and three doubles in 39 plate appearances. Where exactly Morse fits in to the Nationals future plans after his up-and-down start to the season, who can say? But if he can help make the Nationals’ respectable and provide the big bat they haven’t had with Ryan Zimmerman out, it’ll make the present more bearable.

“Mike is such a powerful hitter,” Riggleman said. “He kind of did this through spring training, cooled off a little, got hot again. Mike is what he is. He’s a good hitter. I’m not anticipating another home run tomorrow, but two home runs tomorrow won’t surprise me.”

Morse began the season as the unquestioned left fielder, but a combination of a slump, a sore right knee and Laynce Nix’s emergence relegated him to a bench role. In April, he hit .211/.253/.268. But lately, he has looked like the hitter who replaced Josh Willingham down the stretch in 2010 and led the Nationals in OPS for the last month and a half of the season.

While Morse is the Nationals’ obvious choice at first, Riggleman has stopped short of calling him the everyday starter. He believes Morse is the rare player who plays better when he’s uncertain of his playing time. Whether or not he knows his spot in the lineup when he arrives at the park, Morse, again, is earning a spot in it.


The Nationals had one of their most gut-wrenching losses this year, a 7-6 loss to the Brewers in which they blew a four-run lead.


Rochester 10, Syracuse 4: Ross Detwiler allowed six earned runs on 10 hits and a walk in 3 2/3 innings, striking out one. Jesus Valdez went 2 for 3 with a home run and a double.

Harrisburg 11, Akron 6: Derek Norris went 1 for 3 with a home run and two walks. Tyler Moore went 2 for 5 with a home run. Erik Davis allowed two earned runs in 4 2/3 innings on three hits and four walks, striking out four.

Kinston 4, Potomac 3: Jeff Kobernus went 2 for 4 with a walk. Danny Rosenbaumallowed one earned run in 6 2/3 innings on six hits and two walks, striking out three.

Hagerstown was off.

By  |  02:15 AM ET, 05/25/2011

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