Last night, a team made up of the Nationals’ regulars was held scoreless and managed just five hits in a 2-0 loss to the Phillies.
Tonight, a lineup filled with bench players did the job in a 4-2 win.
“How about that goon squad?” said manager Davey Johnson, calling the bench guys by their self-appointed nickname. “Told you they were tough.”
A night after clinching the division, the guys that round out the roster got a chance to see some action, and they made the most of their opportunities.
Steve Lombardozzi, Chad Tracy, Mark DeRosa, Roger Bernadina and Sandy Leon combined to go 6-for-15 with three RBIs tonight, Tom Gorzelanny pitched 3 2/3 solid innings in his first start since last July and Zach Duke earned his first win of the season.
“Gorzo did a good job,” Johnson said, “(Pitching coach Steve) McCatty wanted me to have him on a 65-pitch limit. I had to fight him on the mound (to take him out). He said, ‘You’re embarrassing me, taking me out with the pitcher up.’ He said, ‘You’re embarrassing me with this. It’s the pitcher.’ But anyway, he did a heck of a job. The bullpen did all right, too. So great win.”
The bench guys did their job, but a guy that has carried the Nats for parts of this season, Adam LaRoche, did his part, as well. LaRoche belted a solo homer in the sixth, breaking a 1-1 tie and giving him 100 RBIs on the season to go along with a career-high 33 homers.
“He led off every inning,” Johnson said. “I think he figured, ‘I’m going to have to hit one out because nobody’s going to be on.’ He’s been great all year. We’re happy for him. ... It was great to get that milestone. Put it out of the way.
“I didn’t have him in the original lineup, but I said, ‘He’s going to probably want to play.’ I said, ‘When he comes in, if he wants to play, we’ll let him play.’ And (Bryce) Harper was the same way. Harper called me last night. He wanted in there.”
DeRosa got his first start at shortstop in over six years tonight, and he came through with two hits and an RBI. He also turned a smooth 1-6-3 double play, but bemoaned an error in the third inning on a fairly routine play.
“Thought he did good,” Johnson said. “He got a couple hits. That one ball kind of ate him up. I thought he played good out there. He was stylin’, turned that double play, had a little mustard on it.”
Johnson said he opted to play DeRosa at short and Lombardozzi at second instead of the other way around because Lombardozzi came up a natural second baseman, while DeRosa is more accustomed to making the throw across the diamond from short.
“Another rule in baseball: You just don’t weaken two positions,” Johnson said. “So it was an easy choice.”
The Reds won tonight, meaning that the top seed in the NL will come down to Game 162. If the Nats win tomorrow, they clinch the No. 1 seed and a date with the wild card play-in winner starting Sunday. If the Nats lose and the Reds win, then the Nats would fly out west to face the Giants starting Saturday.
“I don’t know how it’s that important,” Johnson said of the possibility of getting the top seed. “You’ve got to beat the teams you play. The only nice thing is we (wouldn’t) have to fly cross-country. That’s the only nice thing. The pitching’s set up for whoever we play.
“The kind of year we’ve had, it would be fitting to finish it off with the best record. And more importantly, I’d like to see (Edwin) Jackson get his 10th win. That’s a little higher up on the list than best record.”