The Morris Defense 

According to the box score, Matt Morris just pitched his worst game of the year: 2 1/3 innings, 7 hits, 7 earned runs. I happened to watch, and although he never looked comfortable on the mound, his line doesn't reflect his performance. He was exceedingly unlucky for several reasons.

First, he was nailed in the right forearm or wrist by a line drive in the second inning. It didn't seem to affect his velocity, but it may have forced him to make subtle mechanical changes.

Second, nearly every hit against him was badly struck. Lopez's single in the first? Weak grounder that Durham should have had. Pffft. Johnson's RBI single? A jam job that Johnson somehow muscled over Vizquel's head. With a decent throw Bonds might have nabbed Lopez at the plate, but it barely reached the cut-off man from short left field. This I believe is called "breaming it home."

In the third, Lopez got another bloop hit that ABB (Anyone But Bonds) probably would have caught, Johnson hit a solid grounder up the middle, mix in a couple walks, then Anderson lamely blooped one to right to make the game 5-2. The final blow was well struck: Church's two-run double to right-center, and it ended Morris's night.

Third, Morris's control wasn't great -- he plunked Soriano to lead off the game -- but the umpire's strike zone was terrible. Krukow called it before the game started: Mike Reilly will miss a lot of breaking balls. Sure enough, in the fateful third inning, Morris had at least two, perhaps three curveballs called balls that should have been strikes and would have altered the tone of each at-bat.

Morris may not have lasted much longer than three or four innings given how hard he was hit by Church's line drive, but the Nats scored seven runs on one hard-hit ball and walks helped by bad calls, and shoddy defense.

Call this Exhibit A of what happens when a pitcher doesn't have strikeout stuff and is at the mercy of luck, the umpires, and his teammates.


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