PHILADELPHIA - The combination of the Nationals’ loss to the Phillies and the Braves’ dramatic walk-off win over the Marlins leaves Washington’s lead in the NL East at four with eight games to go in the regular season.
Your thoughts, Davey Johnson?
“Just got to win tomorrow,” the Nationals’ skipper said. “We lost a battle today, we’ve got to win a battle tomorrow. Want to win the war.”
The Nats aren’t panicking yet. They would’ve liked to keep pace with Atlanta today and cut into their magic number by at least one, but fell behind 5-1 early when Ross Detwiler allowed the first four hitters he faced in the third inning to score.
The big blow in the third was Carlos Ruiz’s three-run homer on a 1-1, two-seam fastball from Detwiler.
“He’s got such a good fastball and sometimes he just gets stubborn and doesn’t pitch,” Johnson said. “He just throws. Obviously, he didn’t have a good feel for the ball. Bunch of walks. Not consistently down in the zone. And that’s what’s going to happen. That’s part of what I was talking about earlier - he’s got a great fastball, but he’s also got a good changeup and good curveball. He’s got to learn to pitch with them instead of just trying to overthrow.
“And that’s what he was doing, just trying to overthrow. What’d he walk, five guys or something? You’ve got to learn. That’s that learning process.”
Johnson had seemingly been happy with the way Detwiler had mixed his pitches in his last couple outings. Today, not so much.
“Sometimes, when he does, he’s really good,” Johnson said. “But a lot of times, he’ll start a game and just want to use one pitch and he overthrows it a little bit. Today, he wasn’t locating. That’s the result.”
The Nats knocked out Phillies starter Cole Hamels after just five innings, giving them a chance to get back in the game against Philadelphia’s bullpen. They managed almost nothing over the final four innings, however, as Kurt Suzuki’s two-out single in the ninth was the only baserunner the Nats could muster after Hamels left the game.
“I thought we had a good chance. But they shut us down,” Johnson said. “I liked the way we battled against Hamels. I don’t think he had his best stuff, either. But like I said, he’s a young pitcher and this is the learning process you’ve got to go through with Det. He’ll be all right. After the first couple innings, he settled down and started using his pitches, and it was easier for him.”
The Phillies have played the Nats really tough lately, winning six of the last seven games between these two teams.
It would take an absolute miracle for the Phillies to make the playoffs, but the Nats know they’ll still get a fight from Charlie Manuel’s team down the stretch.
“Yeah, they’ve got a lot of quality players over there,” Johnson said. “Great pitching staff. Good team.”