So how did Nationals manager Davey Johnson arrive at the notion of moving leadoff hitter Ian Desmond to the No. 5 spot in Saturday’s lineup, while bumping Bryce Harper, who had been hitting fifth, into the two-hole?
Partly out of need to inject some life into a batting order that’s been struggling to produce offense and partly because the change was suggested to him by one of the parties involved.
“Just needs shaking up a little bit, you know?” Johnson said during his pregame session with reporters. “I liked the way our lineup was put together, but I talked to Desi probably three or four days ago and he actually said something to me that I don’t have to lock him in the one-hole. I said, ‘Well, I haven’t locked you in the one-hole.’ He said, ‘I’m (good with) that.’ “
Guess you can’t call Johnson rigid.
Johnson acknowledged that his lineup has been “sputtering,” but not Desmond, who has hit in seven of his last eight games, posting a .333 (13-for-39) average in that span. And in moving his shortstop from the leadoff role - where he wasn’t exactly the prototypical No. 1 hitter, working counts and drawing walks - Johnson puts a guy hitting .272 with 16 RBIs, second-most on the team, into a spot where he can perhaps generate more offense.
“He’s driven in some big runs last year and this year in the one-hole,” Johnson said of Desmond. “His RBI numbers would be better if he was in a more run-producing hole. I swapped him out basically with Harper. I like Harper’s energy in one or two, getting more at-bats.”
Rookie Steve Lombardozzi is leading off tonight, giving struggling second baseman Danny Espinosa a breather. Because Lombardozzi is a switch hitter who is more effective from the left side of the plate and Harper hits left-handed, Johnson thinks his rejiggered order may force an opposing skipper into a pitching change deep in a game.
“Later in the game, it just begs the opposing (manager) to bring in a left-hander to face those two guys,” Johnson said. “So this kind of breaks it up a little bit.”
And, if things click, helps the offense give a little cushion to a mound staff that’s been pretty much lights-out without much run production.
“Sometimes when you’re struggling a little bit, change kind of clears the air,” Johnson said.