The Washington Nationals have been struggling all season through injuries and having players step up when key pieces go down in their lineup. Michael Morse, who began the season on the DL, is now facing another injury after getting plunked in the hand on Friday night.
Morse, who is hitting .286 with 12 home runs and 45 RBI, appeared to be in serious pain after taking the pitch to his right hand. According to Mark Zuckerman of CSNwashington.com, X-rays after the game revealed that there was no break in his hand.
Manager Davey Johnson told reporters (h/t Patrick Reddington, federalbaseball.com), "He's got a bad bruise, but hopefully he'll be alright in a few short days." Although Davey is optimistic, a loss of Morse for even a few games still has to be concerning.
The Nationals lead the Atlanta Braves by 6.5 games but have never been tested down the stretch, let alone missing an intricate part of their offense. Morse has been their power threat for two seasons, and a loss of Morse at this point of the season could certainly cost the Nationals.
With the lead at 6.5 games, even losing Morse for a few games could be devastating. Should Morse miss three or four games and the Nationals lose the majority of those games, then the Braves would be in a position to make a surge for first place in the NL East.
The Nationals are in a position to either let the Braves hang around or deliver the finishing blow over the next few days. The task will not become easier without Morse in the lineup, and the next few days could very well prove whether or not Washington is up to the task of running away with the East or wavering when times get tough.
From what we have seen from the Nationals this season, it should not be surprising if they continue to find ways to persevere; after all, they do boast the best record in MLB.