SEATTLE – Mike Morse is an inquisitive 23-year-old with what seems like a thousand questions a day, and his manager loves it.
“He reminds me a lot of me when I was younger,” Seattle Mariners manager Mike Hargrove said. “I came up from A ball to the big leagues, and a lot of what I learned was at the big-league level. I’m sure I was an absolute pest to Jim Fregosi.”
No question is a bad one, especially when the kid delivers a game-winning hit.
Morse did that Saturday night with a ninth-inning single to drive in Adrian Beltre with the winning run in the Mariners’ 3-2 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.
Morse is hitting .345 after a 2-for-4 game that put his talent – but also his youth as a rookie – on full display.
He struck out twice and hit a fourth-inning double to the gap in left-center field but was thrown out at third base for the final out of the inning.
That miscue drew a call to the dugout rail for a talk with Hargrove, who reminded Morse the old baseball tenet that a runner shouldn’t make the first or third out of an inning at third base.
“It was an aggressive mistake,” Hargrove said. “I told him I liked the aggressive part, but not the mistake part.”
Morse has spent a lot of time on the rail since being called up from Class AAA Tacoma in May, mostly picking the brains of Hargrove and hitting coach Don Baylor.
“I try to get all the information I can,” Morse said. “These guys have so much information that I’m trying to get it out of everybody. The way he (Hargrove) used to hit was kind of the same way I like to hit. He liked to put the pitcher in long counts before he got a good fastball to hit. That’s what I try to do every at-bat.”
In the ninth inning Saturday, it was a slider that Morse finally laid good wood on.
He had struck out on sliders early in the game, and before his final at-bat, Baylor told him to lay off any sliders down and away from Orioles reliever Chris Ray with Beltre on third base and Willie Bloomquist on second.
Beltre had led off with a single and Bloomquist, after two failed bunt attempts, swung and hit a dribbler up the third base line. Ray’ high throw sailed into the stands, leaving runners on second and third with nobody out.
Morse fell into a two-strike hole – on two sliders – and remembered Baylor’s advice when he got another slider. It was up and hittable, and Morse drove it into right field, where it dropped in front of B.J. Surhoff.
As Beltre scored the winning run, Morse’s teammates mobbed him at first base.
“This is a first for me, especially at this level,” Morse said. “It’s awesome seeing the guys run out like that.”
The victory was the Mariners’ first over the Orioles in six games this season, and their first against the O’s since Jamie Moyer pitched an 11-0 shutout May 20, 2004, at Safeco Field.
Moyer started Saturday and, despite pitching his way out of trouble much of the way, could have won with a little offensive support.
He got it only in the first inning when they scored twice, on Raul Ibanez’s sacrifice fly and Richie Sexson’s 20th home run of the season.
The Orioles scored twice in the fourth to tie the score, and they threatened in most every other inning Moyer pitched. They got 10 hits off him and had runners in scoring position six times without scoring, including four at third base.
Like the career that keeps going at age 42, Moyer pushed himself throughout the game to keep the score tied. He struck out the side in the seventh inning after the Orioles had runners on first and second, and he got a crucial ground ball against Larry Bigbie in the eighth with runners on first and third with two outs.
“If I don’t push myself time and time again, I could easily say I’m done after seven or done after six,” Moyer said. “Hopefully I can set a good example for the other guys (in the rotation) as well. I’m giving my best and my intent is to pitch nine innings.”
Eight was enough.
J.J. Putz worked the ninth inning, giving up a one-out double to Brian Roberts before he struck out Sammy Sosa and retired Melvin Mora on a fly ball.
Beltre led off the bottom of the ninth by grounding a single to right field, Bloomquist dribbled his infield single and, thanks to Ray’s throwing error, Morse came to bat with a chance to win the game.
The Orioles could have walked him to fill an open base, but they decided to test the rookie and he beat them.
“Everybody dreams of getting the hit and winning the game,” Morse said. “I guess the more games you win like that, the respect will come along with it. I’m nowhere near that yet.”
If he keeps asking the right questions, and getting more hits, he’ll get there.