In Davey Johnson’s eyes, today was “bittersweet.”
The Nationals lost Ian Desmond for at least a couple of weeks with a torn left oblique. They also dominated the Braves, notching a 9-2 win over their NL East rivals. That gave them a big series split and allowed them to retake a 3 1/2-game lead in the division.
If you’re going to lose your All-Star shortstop, you might as well do some damage to your top division contender, as well.
“We didn’t want them to come into our house and leaving feeling that good,” Johnson said. “I gave them the (game) Friday. They nipped us on Saturday morning, but I wasn’t worried about the club. There is no letdown on this ballclub.
“I think if I was them, I’d feel deflated, because you want to pick up some ground when you’re playing good.”
Johnson also stated: “Sometimes just to split is like picking up ground.” This is certainly one of those cases.
Had the Braves won the final two games of this series and left town with a four-game sweep, they still would’ve been only a half-game up in the NL East. But they would’ve grabbed a lot of the momentum in the division, and the Nationals’ trip up to New York for their upcoming series against the Mets would’ve seemed a whole lot longer.
Instead, the Nats put the brakes on Atlanta’s hot streak with two wins in a 21-hour span, and their edge over the Braves in the standings is exactly the same as it was entering this four-game set.
“To be down two games in a four-game series and come back and win the last two and kind of stay where you’re at as far as the division, it’s a good feeling for us,” Danny Espinosa said. “It’s a tough challenge right there. We don’t give up, but it’s tough not to almost fold. We just played well and continued to battle, and we got our last two wins.”
Today, it was a well-rounded performance by the Nats, who got big offensive production and a very strong pitching performance from starter Ross Detwiler.
They jumped out to an early 4-0 lead after the first inning, and by the time the fifth inning had come and gone, the Nats held an 8-0 advantage.
Ryan Zimmerman blasted two home runs, and the 6-7-8 guys in the order (Espinosa, Roger Bernadina and Sandy Leon) each drove in two runs.
“He is swinging the bat so good, it’s scary,” Johnson said of Zimmerman. “You feel like every time up there he’s going to hit a rocket. As tired as we were, offense getting 18 hits, scoring nine runs. ... That’s a pretty good pitching staff. Says something.”
Detwiler, like Edwin Jackson and John Lannan before him, did a great job working deep into the game and giving the Nats a shot at a win.
“Det was spectacular,” Johnson said. “He’s just turned into one heck of a pitcher.”
Detwiler went seven innings, allowed just two runs (one earned) and helped make it so that Johnson only needed to use one reliever to finish the game out. Craig Stammen was the lone guy who came out of the ‘pen; he worked the final two innings.
“I think the offense definitely has been doing better, but the key to all this has been pitching and defense,” Zimmerman said. “The way the starters throw the ball every day, you have a chance to win if you score four or five runs. And even without Ian in there, I think we can do that.”