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Michael Morse fails with runners in scoring position

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 10, 2012

It wouldn't have taken much to make a crowd of 45,017 at Nationals Park explode. Perhaps a big hit by Michael Morse with the bases loaded in the fifth inning that could have tied the score against the St. Louis Cardinals would've done the trick.

"Mikey Mo had a chance to get the fans on their feet," infielder Mark DeRosa said.

Instead, Morse flew out to right, part of his rough 0-for-4 day that was emblematic of the Washington Nationals' teamwide struggles with runners in scoring position. The big left fielder came up small, 0-for-2 in those spots in the Nationals' 8-0 Game 3 loss in National League Division Series  on Wednesday.

"It's the same as regular season. It's nothing different," Morse said. "[Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter] threw some good pitches; he's a good pitcher."

The Nats as a team were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

Morse had two big chances to change the course of Game 3, first with runners on the corners and two outs in the first and the Nationals already trailing 1-0. After making Carpenter work, he struck out swinging.

"He threw a good pitch," Morse said. "He threw a cutter away."

The most talked about at-bat, though, came in the fifth with the bases loaded and Carpenter tiring. Morse looked for something over the middle and got a sinker inside; the fly out to right ended the threat.

"Mikey's been great all year, and I think a lot of us have done well in those positions this year. We have a bunch of guys that have driven in a lot of runs," third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "Mikey put a good swing on it, it just got in on him. That's one of the cases where he made a good pitch."

Second inning of doom

As Edwin Jackson watched Pete Kozma round the bases after depositing a fastball into the left-field seats, it was an all-too-familiar sight for the Nationals in this series. Through three games, the Nationals have imploded in the second inning, giving up nine runs on eight hits.

The Cardinals took advantage of Gio Gonzalez's inaccuracy in Game 1 and shelled Jordan Zimmermann to the tune of four straight hits on the way to the showers in Game 2. In Game 3, Jackson allowed a leadoff double by David Freese then a single by Daniel Descalso before Kozma's home run, which made it 4-0.

Asked to explain why the Cardinals have shelled the Nationals in the second inning, Jackson replied: "I'm not sure. I wish I could answer it. It just coincidentally happened like that, I guess."

Stammen's struggles continue

During the regular season, Craig Stammen was about as consistent and reliable an arm as Davey Johnson had out of the bullpen. His 2.34 ERA was the best among relievers on the roster.

The playoffs have been a rough about-face for Stammen, who has an 11.57 ERA. He gave up another earned run Wednesday and hit another batter, his third of the series.

"Just can't make mistakes. You can't hit batters. That was the key," Johnson said. "Just didn't do the things he had done all year."

In 59 regular-season appearances, Stammen hit just two batters, a testament to his control that has gone awry in the playoffs against the Cardinals.

Johnson frustrated by call

When Danny Espinosa laid down a bunt in the second inning, it looked like he got to first base before the throw. First base umpire Jim Joyce ruled otherwise, which didn't make Johnson the least bit happy.

"Just how come I'm 20 years older than you and I see him as safe," the Nationals' manager said. "And he said he thought he got it right. I said, check the replay. He said, 'I don't have the luxury of doing that right now.' But it was just one play."

Kurt Suzuki and Jackson were then retired to end the inning.

Around the horn

Wednesday's attendance of 45,017 was the largest in Nationals Park history. ... Center fielder Bryce Harper is 1-for-14 in the series. ... The Cardinals have five home runs against Nationals pitching through three games.

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