The Nationals are without Michael Morse and Ryan Zimmerman.
We know this.
But their lack of offense during their five-game losing streak is still surprising and disappointing, especially to the man writing out the starting lineup every day.
“I feel like we got the hitters that can hit,” Johnson said. “(We’re) just not as aggressive as I’d like to see. Our one and two hitters (Ian Desmond and Steve Lombardozzi) were aggressive tonight. They went out and swung the bat and got a couple of hits. But we’re not centering the ball. We’re not getting a good strike and driving it. The talent’s there. Pitching’s been outstanding, but it can’t ... today, (Jordan Zimmermann) was strong, but got tired late, the ball started coming up.
“It’s going to put a strain on the pitching staff if we don’t start scoring some runs. You can’t just be that fine all the time.”
That’s obviously the concern. The last thing the Nationals want is for their excellent starting pitching to suffer because their hurlers are taking the mound feeling like they have to be perfect.
Johnson said he hasn’t seen any signs of that just yet, but understands that when pitchers continue to see a zero in the Nats’ run column, they might have a tendency to press a bit.
“They know they’ve got to be pretty good,” Johnson said. “I think the last five, six games, we’ve been averaging two runs or something. That’s just not going to cut it. You go through spells, but I have a lot of confidence in the talent. I keep looking for us to kind of break out. Tomorrow’s another day.”
Bryce Harper went 0-for-3 tonight, although he hit two balls hard, both of which resulted in ground outs.
He also made two excellent throws from left field (which Byron Kerr has more on here), and continues to show that he’s more than capable of playing in the bigs.
“He’s been playing great defensively,” Johnson said. “And I like his at-bats. ... He made a heck of a play on the ball down the line with the runner on second. Not throwing home but throwing to second and holding the runner on first, that’s a good play, a heads-up play.”
The announced crowd of 22,675 didn’t have a whole lot to cheer about tonight, so they went about applauding Harper after his strikeout in the second inning, and then gave the rookie a standing ovation after his throw to the plate in the seventh in which the runner, John McDonald, was called safe.
By the middle innings, when the Nats trailed 4-0, it had grown pretty darn quiet around Nats Park, but Johnson says the atmosphere will improve as the wins mount.
“We’re grinding over there,” Johnson said. “We want it. And if you want something done, that’s the only way to get it. But it’s coming.”