Kendrys Morales cautiously celebrated his walk-off home run on Sunday. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
On May 29, 2010, in the bottom of the 10th inning of a Saturday afternoon game against the Mariners, Angels first baseman Kendry Morales -- it came to light that there was an "s" at the end of his first name in 2011 -- hit a walk-off grand slam, then broke his left tibia near his ankle during his celebratory leap onto home plate. The year before, his first as a full-time major leaguer, the Cuban-born Morales had hit .306/.355/.569 with 34 home runs and 108 RBIs for the Halos. In the week prior to his injury, Morales had been heating up -- hitting .382/.475/.618 over his last nine games -- and the grand slam put him on pace for 35 homers and 124 RBIs on the season. The broken ankle subsequently derailed his career.
Not only did Morales miss the remainder of 2010 after having a pin and six screws inserted in his ankle, but he missed the entire 2011 season as the ankle required a second surgery and a bone graft in May of that year. When he finally did return in 2012, he found himself fighting for playing time behind the newly-acquired Albert Pujols and second-year starter Mark Trumbo, who had taken over first base in 2011.
Morales did eventually hit his way back into the lineup as a designated hitter and occasional first baseman with Trumbo settling into the outfield, and he hit a solid .273/.320/.467 with 22 home runs and 73 RBIs. But he lost his two prime-age seasons to the injury, settling for a one-year, $5.25 million contract with the Mariners this past winter heading into his age-30 season.
Morales' 2013 campaign has looked a lot like his 2012: He has had to fight for time in a crowded first base/DH situation, winning the bulk of the Mariners' DH at-bats, and is hitting .275/.334/.436 with a comparable OPS+ (120 this year, 119 last year). He's on pace for 19 home runs and 86 RBIs. On Sunday, however, he brought things full circle with his first walk-off home run since that fateful day in Anaheim, this one a three-run shot in the bottom of the 10th for the Mariners, rather than against them. This time, Morales took tiny baby steps to home plate.