The Nationals suffered a big blow to their already painful season, as Nyjer Morgan will be out for the remainder of the year with a broken hand.
The centerfielder suffered the injury Thursday afternoon while sliding headfirst into third base in the first inning. Morgan had reached base after drawing a walk from Cubs starting pitcher Randy Wells. He stole second and third base before scoring on a Cristian Guzman double.
Riding Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn home runs, the Nats hung on to win a 5-4 game, giving them the series win.
However the story of the game clearly belongs to Morgan and his injury. Morgan has been the sparkplug that has ignited the Nationals turnaround this season. At the plate he has been the catalyst for the Nationals at the top of the line up, batting .351/.393/.435 since his arrival while snagging 24 bases. In the field he has successfully anchored an outfield that had been lost before his arrival.
Morgan’s downfall came however when he broke his hand, which occurred when he broke a cardinal baseball fundamental.
YOU NEVER MAKE THE FIRST OR THE LAST OUT AT THIRD BASE.
This is something all baseball players learn in high school. When you are on second base, you are in scoring position. This means that any base hit should be able to drive in a runner on second, assuming the runner has average speed. Of course Morgan doesn’t have average speed, he has Nyjer Morgan supermaxwheels.
There is no benefit for him to be on third base, especially with no outs. Percentages say that Guzman will get a hit at least 30 percent of the time, which will score him from second. If Guzman doesn’t get a hit odds are good that he will either hit a groundball to the right side or a fly ball that is deep enough to safely move Morgan to third with one out.
On the other side of the spectrum, imagine Morgan had been thrown out at third. It would have been an immediate inning killer to take a runner out of scoring position and instead add an out.
So Morgan’s injury was a result of a play that never should have happened in the first place. I always thought that I was being hyperbolic when I said the Nationals lack of fundamentals was dangerous, but alas, here we are.