ATLANTA — After the Nationals’ 5-4 victory over the Braves Friday night, Nationals manager Davey Johnson mentioned that he’d likely be slotting Michael Morse (who hit a game-winning home run) back into the cleanup spot. Of course, facing left-hander Mike Minor in Saturday’s game, that wouldn’t be a real surprise. Since Morse has returned from the disabled list, against left-handers, he will generally hit fourth while Adam LaRoche hits fifth.
But Johnson said Saturday that with Morse continuing to show he’s returning to the form that made him one of the biggest home run threats in the majors last year, he’ll likely begin hitting cleanup all the time, regardless of the opposing pitcher.
“I can’t remember hitting him any other place in the lineup when I was here last year,” Johnson said.
Morse hit cleanup in 82 games in 2011, getting 361 of his 575 plate appearances from that spot. His next most prevalent spot in the lineup was fifth, where he had 157 plate appearances.
For the most part, when discussing his lineup, Johnson usually prefers to follow left-handers with right-handers and so on so that it makes it tougher for opposing managers to matchup their bullpen late in games. But Johnson noted on Saturday that he also likes pairing two right-handers together (as he would be with Ryan Zimmerman and Morse) to break up the left-handers a little more and make it more difficult for a lefty reliever to get both Bryce Harper and Adam LaRoche.
“I like the separation of two batters between Harper and LaRoche,” Johnson said. “Anybody that’s got a left-hander has usually got ‘em warming up not just for Harper — although it appears it’s all for Harper — it’s for Harper and LaRoche.”
Morse is still getting treatment on his left hamstring, “just below the knee,” Johnson said but he’s implored the outfielder to be honest with him in telling him how it feels and when it gets to be more than the manageable tightness he’s felt the past few days.
“It’s fine,” Morse said Friday night. “It was tightening up a little bit in Colorado. He told me if I feel anything to let him know, so I did.”
“I’m glad he’s being honest with me,” Johnson said. “I don’t want to aggravate it and make it so he misses more time.”
Here are the full lineups as the Nationals send Stephen Strasburg to the mound on a steamy day in Atlanta, looking for the series victory over the Braves:
Danny Espinosa 2B
Bryce Harper CF
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Michael Morse RF
Adam LaRoche 1B
Ian Desmond SS
Tyler Moore LF
Jesus Flores C
Stephen Strasburg P
Michael Bourn CF
Martin Prado LF
Jason Heyward RF
Freddie Freeman 1B
Dan Uggla 2B
Brian McCann C
Andrelton Simmons SS
Juan Francisco 3B
Mike Minor P