Nationals manager Matt Williams said his team’s strategy of working to get as many men on base as ppossible was a key an 11-1 victory over San Diego, even if they struggled with runners in scoring position in their Thursday extra-inning loss.
“The theme is the same as it always is,” Williams said. “We just try to give ourselves as many opportunities as we can. I think Anthony (Rendon) and (Ian) Desmond certainly set the tone tonight. Taking the ball the other way against a left-hander pitcher and staying on it. That sets the tone for your team. They both did a nice job of that.
“(Adam) LaRoche, of course, continues to swing it well, (Bryce) Harper, (Jose) Lobaton is getting a lot of hits for us. It is good. We just keep getting guys out there and see if you can bring them in. Those opportunities are key though.”
Williams said the reason the Nats keep hitting well - 33 hits last 20 innings - and getting guys on base is because they have a talented group and want to be aggressive. That is something Williams emphasized during spring training.
“We have got some guys that know the strike zone, that can get on base,” Williams said. “Those guys can also hit very well. The key to our team is the opposite gap. We saw an example of that tonight. That is kind of their strength.
“If they can do that then we are very productive. It is about that approach though and continuing to have it. Tonight was a good example of it.”
Desmond ended up 3-for-5 with two RBIs, including a run-scoring double to open the scoring. The hits in game two against the Padres were Desmond’s first since his homer Monday versus the Angels.
Williams said Desmond might have been overswinging this week but Friday he looked back in a groove.
“Just a little bit ... violent with his swing, swinging hard,” Williams said of Desmond’s scuffles this week. “Of course, he has got the ability to hit the ball over the fence. From what I have seen the last few games, anyway it is just a little bit too much extra. And that causes him to pull off a little bit. Tonight he stayed on balls (and) what (did) he get, three hits? That is good for him. I am glad for him.”
Stephen Strasburg pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing seven hits and striking out 11 Padres with only two walks. Williams said Strasburg’s ability to consistently get ahead in the strike zone made the difference.
“First-pitch strikes are key for him, of course,” Williams said. “He had good command of his fastball down and away to the righties. At 95 mph, it is tough for anybody to hit. Then he mixed in his off-speed pitches, but the key for him tonight was fastball. If he has that and he is able to put it where he wants to then everything else works really good.”
Strasburg reached the seventh inning, but he had thrown 101 pitches. Williams wanted to help Strasburg make it through the seventh so he could build up stamina for later in the season. Strasburg was efficient in that seventh, needing only eight pitches to get three outs.
“He hasn’t been much over 100 (pitches),” Williams said. “So we get into a situation during the course of the year, one-run lead going into the seventh, and he is at 100. We want him to be used to it and be able to get to the eighth if we want him to go that far. But to get him up over 100 or up over 110 it is important for him because if he gets in those situations, he is used to it and he has done it.
“He knows that his pitches are probably limited in that inning anyway. So he went right at them. He threw even more fastballs in the last inning than he had in the inning previous. That is him understanding where he is at in the game. He has got to pound the strike zone and go after them and he did.”