PHILADELPHIA - Davey Johnson didn’t hold a team meeting following today’s 4-1 loss to the Phillies, the Nationals’ fourth straight defeat.
With his team still holding the best record in baseball, Johnson didn’t feel it was necessary.
He did, however, have a closed-door discussion with general manager Mike Rizzo following the game which got heated at one point. Some shouting could be heard from Johnson’s office, although that’s not necessarily anything out of the ordinary. Emotions can run high in this game, especially during pennant races.
The Nats are getting frustrated by their play of late, but they’re not panicking. Johnson and the players feel they’re giving the same level of effort that they’ve given throughout the vast majority of the season, a level of effort which has propelled them to their perch atop the majors.
“These guys ain’t easing off the gas pedal. They’re grinding,” Johnson said. “You’re never as bad as you look when you lose and you’re never as good as you look when you win. Just remember that, you know? These guys don’t need a pep talk, they don’t need anything. A couple guys need to get healthy and we’ll be fine.
“But don’t underestimate (the Phillies). They’ve got a fine ballclub over here. We came in and they had a little momentum going their way and we got a little banged up. It happens.”
If there’s one play in today’s game which the Nats would like to have back, it’s when Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche both thought LaRoche’s seventh-inning fly ball to right left the park. Umpires ruled that the ball actually bounced off the top of a metal railing and back into play, making it a live ball.
Werth, who was on second, went into a trot, and by the time LaRoche realized the ball was ruled to still be in play, he was caught in a rundown between second and third. He ended up tagged out and Werth was left stuck on third base, putting the brakes on a promising Nats rally.
“You take nothing for granted in this game,” Johnson said. “I mean this is a game you never take anything for granted. My two veteran players took it for granted that the ball was out. I asked Rochie, I said, ‘Rochie what were you thinking?’ He said, ‘I was going for three.’ I said, ‘Well you weren’t going very fast.’ But you know, that’s kind of a mental mistake because you can always review it. You never put yourself in position with the ball still on the field, and two veteran players messed that up.
“I think it was an assumption taken for granted that it was a home run so (Werth) went into the trot and you can’t do that. You just can’t do it. One of my rules is if you hit a hard ground ball to the shortstop and you don’t run down there you’re taking it for granted that he’s going to catch it and make a good throw. That’s a losing attitude. Same way on that play there. If you assume when the ball’s hit up there like you think it’s gone, and the ball’s still in play, that’s a losing attitude.”
Johnson was frustrated by that play, but said he was even more irritated by a hanging slider which Tom Gorzelanny served up to Laynce Nix in the bottom of the sixth. Gorzelanny was up on Nix 0-2, but left the slider way up in the zone, and Nix hammered it into the bleachers to make it a 4-0 Phillies lead.
If you’re wondering why Bryce Harper was pulled in the bottom of the sixth inning, it has nothing to do with his recent offensive struggles or the fact that he slipped and landed on his rear end after lunging for the first base bag in the top of the sixth. Harper was merely pulled as part of a double-switch because he was one of the last players to hit before Tom Gorzelanny came on in relief.
“I’ve got two bench players. I’ve got to double switch,” Johnson said. “I told (bench coach Randy Knorr), I said, ‘Tell the kid, I have one player left and I’m double switching with him,’ so he doesn’t kill himself down there. He didn’t get to him right away. He was destroying helmets in the runway so I said, ‘Randy, will you get to him? Please get to him.’ But I really had no choice.
“I didn’t care if it was Babe Ruth. I had one player left and I have to have as many batters to stay in the game as possible.”