Tonight was the largest blown lead in Nationals/Expos history.
And Davey Johnson is putting it squarely on his own shoulders.
“It was probably, arguably the worst game I’ve ever managed in my life,” said the Nationals’ skipper, who has managed 16 seasons in the majors. “I’ve never lost a nine-run lead when it was my part of the game to handle the pitching. It’ll be hard for me to sleep. I had a worse night than the guys did. It was a tough loss. But it was just one loss.”
It was just one loss. The Nationals are in first place. They have the best record in the National League.
But you could tell tonight’s defeat, in which the Nats held a 9-0 lead through five innings only to see the Braves march back and win 11-10 in 11 innings, weighed heavily on Johnson, who not exactly his normal sarcastic, jovial self (which he usually is even following most losses) after the game.
What appeared to eat at Johnson the most was how he managed his bullpen. Five Nationals relievers allowed a total of seven runs, and Michael Gonzalez allowed two inherited runners score, adding them to the pitching line of starter Stephen Strasburg.
“There’s a few things I’d take back,” Johnson said. “I mean, I don’t even want to go there. But that’s my part of the game. Those are my matchups. Obviously when they score 10 runs, it’s my fault.”
Johnson was also kind of tough on Strasburg, who worked five scoreless innings before giving up hits to four of the five hitters he faced in the sixth. Strasburg’s command wasn’t exceptional early in the game, and his pitch count showed how hard he had to battle. The righty threw 103 pitches over 5 1/3 innings, only 57 of which were strikes.
“He felt like he was missing, but I felt like he just wasn’t going after them,” Johnson said. “He wasted a lot of pitches. He really doesn’t know who he is at times. He doesn’t trust his stuff. ... It was a little avoiding contact, trying to make too good of pitches. I know they’re a pretty good-hitting ballclub but he’s got pretty good stuff.”
And how about Tyler Clippard, who put up his fourth straight shaky outing?
“I’m a little concerned,” Johnson said. “He was a little wild tonight. He’s not wild. He hasn’t been wild at all in that role. But it never should have got to a one-run lead. That’s why I say it’s my fault.”
One interesting decision Johnson made was going to Drew Storen in the seventh inning, a day after the righty made his first major league appearance this season following elbow surgery.
“That’s what he does, it’s his role,” Johnson said. “He pitches every day. A couple hitters. He’ll probably feel stronger tomorrow. I’ll probably have some of those guys tomorrow night. Some of the lefties. But it was a game I felt I could stay off (Tom) Gorzelanny early, feeling I could save him for both games if I needed him in the same day but there’s a lot of little things.
“Anyway, don’t want to go there. I’ve got to live with it.”
How will the Nats avoid letting this one linger into tomorrow’s doubleheader? Johnson doesn’t see that as an issue.
“It’s not the kind of makeup on this ballclub,” Johnson said. “Nothing but gamers over there. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. We’ve had our share of adversity. This is a bump in the road. We’ve got two tomorrow.”