ATLANTA -- While leading the Major Leagues in walk-off winners this season with six, you'd have to figure the Braves would be the prime candidates to experience a freak injury to their walk-off hero during postgame celebrations.
Instead, the practically unthinkable actually occurred Saturday in Los Angeles, as Angels star first baseman Kendry Morales suffered a fracture in his lower left leg while rejoicing in a walk-off grand slam to beat the Mariners. The 26-year-old was leading the team in batting average, home runs, total bases and RBIs. But now, he's out indefinitely.
"It's unfortunate," Braves center fielder Nate McLouth said of Morales' injury. "It's something you never picture happening. But hopefully he'll be good and get back sooner rather than later. I don't know, maybe it'll change the way we celebrate walk-offs."
The 28-year-old McLouth would know a thing or two about walk-off winners. He did complete an improbable comeback against the Phillies on April 20 with a solo home run into the right-field bleachers in the bottom of the 10th. Unlike the Angels, and most Major League teams which converge to homeplate, the Braves bench jokingly emptied into the clubhouse -- leaving McLouth all alone to run the basepaths in jubilation.
"We made it through mine, that's for sure. " McLouth said while chuckling.
Still, how much walk-off celebrations will change around the Majors, and even in Atlanta itself, remains to be seen. Angels manager Mike Scioscia already stated his team will alter its postgame style. But Braves infielder Brooks Conrad, who smacked his own walk-off grand slam on May 20 against the Reds, sees it differently.
"You've got to go for the [wild celebration at home plate]," he said. "At that point, your natural kid reactions just take over, and you're just so happy. You're flying in there. You can't really plan it unless you talk about it before. Something like that, where it's an unexpected walk-off like that, it's hard to be careful. You're so excited."
Conrad added that the walk-off has evolved over the years -- especially with the celebratory antics -- citing the joke on McLouth as one such example. He understands being careful, but, "It's one of the most fun things you can ever experience. It's good to be on the cautious side, but it's hard to control yourself, because you're so excited."
-- Chris Hempson