Twenty-six runs, 31 hits, four hit-by-pitches, six ejections and one nasty brawl. Is there any doubt the Nationals have played their craziest game of the year?
There will be plenty of fallout from this one - Nyjer Morgan, who already had a seven-game suspension looming, will undoubtedly see that grow, and it’s possible the Nationals will cut ties with him. And Scott Olsen, after giving up nine runs in 1 1/3 innings, has never looked as uncertain a member of the Nationals’ rotation as he does now.
The Nationals continued to hit after falling behind 14-3 in the first three innings, making a game out of it despite manager Jim Riggleman pulling his best slugger, first baseman Adam Dunn, on a double switch in the fifth inning. But Craig Stammen was almost as bad in relief as Olsen was starting the game (he allowed six runs in 3 1/3 innings) and the Nationals never really had a chance to win their second game of the three-game series in Florida.
So they’ll go to Pittsburgh now, after a day off, with lots to sort out. Morgan’s future is chief among those questions. I’d assume he’ll be suspended fairly quickly by MLB, and once that’s added to his seven-game suspension for throwing a ball into the stands last month in Philadelphia, it’s possible he’s played his last game for the Nationals. There have been enough ugly incidents on the field that it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Nationals part with him, which would be fairly inexpensive to do.
But there’s an important point to make here: Even with his struggles on the field and his difficulty controlling his temper, the Nationals were still hoping for the best out of Morgan. As recently as last weekend, manager Jim Riggleman said Morgan would be the team’s leadoff hitter in a perfect world. He plays the game aggressively, sometimes on the edge of recklessness, and that’s gotten the better of him over the last week. The Nationals have continued to give him chances because they like that energy. Whether they’re willing to deal with its side effects is another question.
I’ve heard a few readers suggest the Nationals - or more pointedly, I - should have seen this coming all along. That’s convenient to say now, with things going badly. But Morgan was a key piece of the Nationals’ offense last year, and judging by how many chances the Nationals have continued to give him, it’s clear they have still had faith in him, at least to this point. We’ll see if Morgan has spent all those chances, but I know this much from watching how the Nationals have handled things this year: They were giving Morgan enough leash to play himself out of his slump.
On Wednesday night, that leash might have run out.