Manager Davey Johnson has been asked many times the last few weeks if he has checked the scoreboard. Today, Johnson was asked if he thought the Reds and Pirates were checking to see how the Nationals are doing.
“They are watching it,” Johnson said. ‘There is no doubt about it. But it always goes down to what you do today. You only worry about things you can control. I am assuming the Reds are going to beat the Astros. Unless our boy (Brad) Peacock has a great game and tries to hand something back to us for all the development we did for him. All the wins I got for him starting up here for us, maybe return the favor by beating them. You don’t worry about things you can’t control. You just play your game.”
Johnson said he wouldn’t put in a call to former Nationals third base coach Bo Porter, current Astros manager, who faces the Reds tonight.
“I have thought about it,” Johnson said. “He knows it. Well, he has already lost 100. Maybe he can keep from going over 100.”
The Nationals’ run on offense has coincided a bit with when hitting coach Rick Eckstein was fired and Rick Schu arrived to take his place. Johnson said it has not been a coincidence that the guys started hitting because Schu was directing them. However, he believes it was more of the players finally getting healthy and finding some consistency.
“Rick Schu is a good hitting coach,” Johnson said. “Rick Eckstein is an outstanding hitting coach. They have basically the same philosophy, hit off the fastball. The talent we had here is the same talent and getting the same message, they just didn’t do it. I have been preaching from the get-go, ‘Be more aggressive early in the count,’ blah blah blah. We just didn’t do it.
“(Denard) Span had troubles. Everybody in the lineup was slow. We lost (Bryce) Harper for a month. We lost (Jayson) Werth for a couple two or three weeks. (Wilson) Ramos was out. Just a lot of things.
“It is always water seeks its level. We were way down. We need to come up. So a lot of that had to happen or guys would be looking at being brutal. I think Schuey has done a great job. He does really want them to hit off the fastball. I think we have done that more, but so does Rick (Eckstein).”
Johnson said the Nationals’ young pitchers who have been called up this season - guys like Tanner Roark, Taylor Jordan and Nathan Karns - have all done good things to help the team stay in contention and to add depth with injuries to others, including Ross Detwiler.
“I knew of Roark. I liked his stuff,” Johnson said. “He didn’t have a good spring. He was all over the place. Jordan, I had no idea who he was or where he was. Karns, I knew a little bit about him. But he was not ready. He has command issues. Stuff is OK, but he has command issues.
“Roark has got an interesting story, I think he lost 17 games a couple for years ago. But Spin (Williams) was really high on him this year all along, all through spring and then during the year, and he certainly has reason to be.
“One of the things we knew that was one area we didn’t have a lot of depth. Hopefully, with Detwiler getting healthy and with what these guys have done and with other arms we have coming, this organization will be in great shape.”
Then, there is the next wave - guys like Matt Purke, Sammy Solis, A.J. Cole, Robbie Ray and others. Johnson said all they have to do is get to Double-A, and then they’ll be a candidate to be called up.
“We got some guys, Cole, Solis, some guys I really like, great arms,” Johnson said. “Pitching comes fast. They are all going to be pitching at Double-A or up. When you get them to that level, I think you can come from Double-A to the big leagues just as easy as coming from Triple-A.”