Earlier this week, Morse went to Colorado and clobbered the ball. Friday night in Atlanta, Morse proved his suddenly torrid hitting was the result of his growing comfort at the plate, not just the thin air of the Rocky Mountains.
He finished 4 for 4, including a solo home run in the eighth inning that was the decisive run in the Nationals’ 5-4 win over the Braves.
While Morse saved the game, it was left-handed starter Ross Detwiler who saved his team’s arms.
After a series of shootouts against the Rockies, the weary bullpen needed a strong outing from Detwiler, who was making his second start since returning to the starting rotation.
He would have to be stretched out and, if possible, pitch deeper into the game than he had in a month.
“We needed it so bad I can’t even tell you,” Manager Davey Johnson said.
When the left-hander was moved into the bullpen in late May, something clicked: He found a renewed aggressiveness.
Against the Braves, he displayed it. Detwiler breezed through the first four innings, allowing only one hit. He allowed no runs until the seventh, extending his scoreless streak to 182
3 innings. Working out of the bullpen had forced him to pitch faster and more efficiently.
Detwiler pitched into a jam with a 4-0 lead in the fifth inning but Johnson left him in. Detwiler loaded the bases by allowing a double, hitting a batter and committing an error on a soft groundball in front of him. But he induced a flyout to deep right field from Andrelton Simmons for the third out.
Detwiler faced a similar situation in the seventh.
Again, Johnson left him in to mop up the mess and rest the bullpen. Detwiler hit Freddie Freeman with a pitch. He then failed to field a sacrifice bunt by Jack Wilson. A balk moved everyone over a base.
Detwiler then allowed a RBI single to pinch-hitter Martin Prado, the Braves’ best hitter. Out came pitching coach Steve McCatty to the mount to talk with Detwiler. To grow as a starter, Detwiler needed to clean up this mess, too.
Michael Bourn lifted a sacrifice fly to left field to trim the deficit to 4-2. Again Simmons came to the plate in a crucial spot against Detwiler. On his 93rd pitch of the night, Detwiler hung a curveball over the plate and Simmons crushed it to left field for a game-tying, two-run home run. Within a span of six batters, Detwiler lost his streak and blew the lead. But the 62
3 innings he chewed put the Nationals in a spot they needed: handing the ball to setup man Sean Burnett and closer Tyler Clippard.
“Det gave us just what the doctor ordered,” Johnson said. “It’s a shame that he made really one bad pitch and it cost him the ballgame.”