Tyler Moore reaches a new high point in his rapid rise

The Nationals always saw something in Tyler Moore. “There’s a reason Tyler Moore was drafted three times by us and then finally signed,” General Manager Mike Rizzo said. What they saw, the raw power and simple approach that led to Sunday’s game-winning pinch-hit, was not always apparent.

In the middle of 2010, Moore was hitting .190 at Class A Potomac, swinging and missing his way through the Carolina League. He looked at his swing in the mirror and thought about where he should start his hands. He guessed pitches. He became tentative. “Enough is enough,” Moore said back then. “I just went back to hitting. It was like, ‘Oh, there it is.’ A light went off in my head.”

And that is how Moore began his rise from slumping minor leaguer to playoff hero. Ever since the light went off, Moore has done nothing but hit. After his keep-it-simple epiphany, Moore won the Carolina League player of the week award in four of the next six weeks. When the minor league season ended, he had more extra-base hits than anybody in baseball, at any level.

Moore kept mashing his way through the minor leagues. In 2010 and 2011 combined, Moore hit 62 homers, tying him for the most among all minor league players. He had always been a first baseman, but they  made him a left fielder so he could find more at-bats. He is a natural pull hitter, so in spring training he spent his rounds in the cage ripping balls the other way, becoming a more complete slugger.

Moore began this year at Class AAA Syracuse, and after he hit seven homers in less than a month, the Nationals could no longer wait. They made him a big leaguer. He struggled at first, uncomfortable with pinch-hitting and nervous about his place. After they sent him back down and then needed him once more, he was ready. In 156 at-bats this season, he mashed 10 home runs.

“He’s going to be a solid player for a long time,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said. “I told him earlier in the year he’s not a bench guy. He’s not a platoon guy. He’s an everyday player at some point, whether it’s for us or somebody else. We’re really happy to have him now. I hope he sticks around. That guy’s solid.”

LaRoche could become a free agent after the year, and even though both sides want him to return to Washington, there is no guarantee he will. If not, Moore could be the Nationals’ first baseman next season. For now, though, he is just a playoff hero. There’s a reason the Nationals always wanted him. “I’m a blessed man,” Moore said.  

FROM TODAY’S POST

Washington’s 79-year wait for a playoff game ended with the Nationals’ anxious 3-2 win over the Cardinals.

The Nationals overcome a nerve-wracking start with a key hit, writes Thomas Boswell.

Tyler Moore’s winning hit was the result of Davey Johnson’s strategy, writes Barry Svrluga.

Adam Wainwright uses his curveball to keep Nats on edge, writes Katie Carrera.

Ryan Mattheus saves the day with three outs on two pitches, James Wagner writes.

From the weekend, Davey Johnson manages the Nationals with nuanced authority, Svrluga writes. 

FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL

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A completely awesome new format of a live blog that we debuted for NLDS Game 1

Busch Stadium shadows make life tough on hitters

Cardinals gain psychological boost over Nats from last series

Zimmermann unwavering before NLDS Game 2

Cards look like the Nats toughest opponent

Gonzalez, Jackson carry different memories of World Series

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