It’s easy to look at a 9-5 loss to a division rival and say not much went right.
Gio Gonzalez got hit hard and lasted just 3 1/3 innings, his shortest outing of the year. Craig Stammen didn’t fare much better in relief. Bryce Harper went 0-for-5, the Nationals were 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position and they left 12 on-base.
But Davey Johnson isn’t looking at today’s loss that way. He doesn’t view this as a missed opportunity to earn a sweep and won’t leave Nats Park frustrated with how his team played. The Nationals’ skipper saw plenty of positives come out of a game which his team once trailed 9-1.
“When you’re (eight) runs down, you come back and a couple times you have the tying run on deck, that was great,” Johnson said. “I wanted to do Henry (Rodriguez) a part of an inning and then an inning, I was able to do that. Get (Drew) Storen into the game. Rest my left-handers for the upcoming series. I got (Mark DeRosa) in there, he got a couple hits. A lot of good things came out of that ballgame. (Ian) Desmond came back, and he played and felt pretty good.
“I got to use my whole bench of four, and Sandy Leon got his first (major league) hit. It’s not always just a complete bad day. There were a lot of good things that happened that I was really proud to see.”
The Nationals trailed by seven going into the eighth inning, and Johnson had already pulled Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche and Jesus Flores by that point, opting to give a rest to some of the guys with the most innings under their belts this season.
Even without their No. 3 and No. 4 hitters, the Nats still threatened late, scoring twice in the eighth and loading the bases in that frame, as well.
They brought the potential tying run into the on-deck circle in both the eighth and ninth innings and forced Mets manager Terry Collins to use four different relievers even though starter R.A. Dickey went 7 1/3 innings.
“We still had opportunities to get back in that ballgame,” Johnson said. “Terry had to use more pitchers than I did. I like what I saw out there.”
Storen (elbow surgery) and Desmond (sore oblique) returned from injuries, and both showed well, as Storen pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning and Desmond went 1-for-1 with a pinch-hit bullet single, a run and a hit by pitch. Leon’s first major league hit was a sharp single up the middle. DeRosa hit the ball hard three times and collected two hits and two runs scored.
The win didn’t come with it and the Nationals’ National League East lead was cut to 3 1/2 games, but a team that’s still 16 games above .500 was able to pull some positives from a division defeat.
Meanwhile, Johnson said that John Lannan will be called up from Triple-A to start the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Braves. It will be the left-hander’s 2012 big league debut.
Johnson also said that Desmond will be in the Nats’ starting lineup tomorrow. Danny Espinosa had started the last five games at short as Desmond has allowed his oblique to heal.