As he sat down at the podium for his postgame press conference, Davey Johnson said what all Nationals fans are probably feeling tonight.
“Well, that was a tough one,” Johnson said.
The Nats battled with the O’s over 11 innings, but the frustrating part of the night was the 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position. Washington had opportunities but just couldn’t get guys in, and they couldn’t capitalize on a fantastic eight-inning performance from Edwin Jackson in which he allowed just five hits and struck out eight.
“That was a shame to waste such a great pitching effort by Jackson. He pitched outstanding,” Johnson said. “Through nine innings or so, I think we only hit one ball hard. But we had chances.”
Johnson watched as the Nats put the leadoff runner on in the seventh, 10th and 11th innings only to either leave that runner at first or have him erased on a double play each time. But it wasn’t for a lack of trying.
In the seventh, Danny Espinosa failed to get a bunt down and struck out when he rolled one foul with two strikes, and Ian Desmond tried to lay a bunt down twice in the 11th, but was unsuccessful both times.
“A game like that’s frustrating,” Johnson said. “We don’t have to try to force on the execution of a bunt. But that was a tough one. We pitched good. I thought the bullpen pitched good. One pitch, ballgame.”
Not getting much going with the bats early, the Nats also tried to move runners along in the fifth, when Johnson called for a hit-and-run with Jackson at bat and catcher Jesus Flores on first. The plan failed, as Jackson swung through a Jake Arrieta pitch and Flores was caught stealing.
“Yeah, I mean... hit and run with Jackson, you’re just trying to put the ball in play, move runners up, bunt guys over,” Johnson said. “Fastball hitter against fastball pitcher, let him swing. We get in that situation, and we get a little over-anxious. Just trying too hard the way I figure it, and not letting them come to us.”
Is Johnson’s patience with the offense starting to wear off?
“I know the talent,” he said. “I don’t know, when you’re missing some key guys, it puts more pressure on other guys to be more aggressive and more a run-producer. But we need to have patience when we get in those situations. I certainly see the ability there and whatever. They threw some good pitchers at us and made good pitches, but a lot of times we got ourselves out by being overly aggressive.
“Hitters get frustrated, wanting to make something happen, not staying within themselves. It’s more common with younger players, but you see it with more veteran types, too, at times. It’s what it is. We need to overcome.”
One side note: Johnson felt that Arrieta wasn’t wiping enough of the saliva off his hand after going to his mouth a few times, so he noted it to the umpires.
“I wasn’t accusing him of throwing a spitter, but I said, ‘I’d like to see a little better wipe,’ ” Johnson said. “But I didn’t realize he was that fidgety. He’s got all kinds of moves out there. But anyway, we’ll get them tomorrow.”