Typically a guy that preaches the need to keep an even keel over the course of a 162-game season, Davey Johnson has seen about enough.
His Nationals team - the same one that was picked by many to win the World Series, the same team that Johnson felt was talented enough that he declared its motto to be “World Series or bust” - is now a .500 squad, owners of a 10-10 record.
After tonight’s 2-0 loss to the Cardinals, the Nats have now lost eight of their last 11 games, and Johnson is starting to get fed up with what he’s seeing.
“I’m usually pretty patient, but I’m getting to my rope’s end,” Johnson said. “The effort’s there, but we’re just not getting it done. We’ve got the players who can get it done, we’re just not getting it done. It’s time to get a little mad.
“I mean, you’ve got to tip your hat to (Adam) Wainwright, he pitched a heck of a ballgame, but we’re not centering up, we’re not giving as good of at-bats as we’re capable of. What’s it been, about a week. We’ve been real quiet offensively.”
The Nationals were shut out tonight for the second time in their last three games. They managed just five hits yet again. They’ve scored two or fewer runs in nine of their 20 games this season and are now batting .236 as a team.
“The effort’s always there,” Johnson said. “But we’re just not hitting the ball the way we’re capable of.”
Johnson typically likes leaving his struggling players in the lineup, giving them a chance to battle through slumps. That won’t be happening with some of his normal starters tomorrow.
Asked if he feels a need to switch up the lineup a bit, Johnson responded in the affirmative.
“I’m going to have a few changes tomorrow,” Johnson said.
Expect Steve Lombardozzi to find his way into the lineup in the series finale against the Cardinals. With a pinch-hit single in the eighth inning tonight, Lombardozzi improved his average to .357 (10-for-28) this season and he’s now 3-for-5 in pinch-hit opportunities.
Adam LaRoche is one of the Nats struggling most right now. Mired in an 0-for-10 slump that includes seven strikeouts (four of which came tonight, giving LaRoche the dreaded “Golden Sombrero”), LaRoche is hitting .172 on the season. Second baseman Danny Espinosa went 0-for-3 tonight, dropping his average to .167.
“When it rains, it pours,” Johnson said. “When you sometimes go into a little funk, it’s magnified. And the way I read this ballclub, it’s probably more everybody’s trying to do something, trying to do maybe a little too much instead of just doing what’s there. Hitting the ball hard somewhere. Get on base. Get some momentum going. But it’s frustrating.”
Making things even worse for the Nats is that they wasted another solid pitching effort tonight. Ross Detwiler went six strong innings allowing just two runs, Henry Rodriguez threw two scoreless innings in relief and Tyler Clippard worked a perfect ninth.
“Yeah, I mean the bullpen really has done a great job,” Johnson said. “Henry really did a great job. That’s the first time he’s ever gone more than one inning. And if there was ever a time that we needed it, it was right now, because we’ve put a big strain on the bullpen. What he did tonight was gave us a chance to win.
“But we’ve just got to pick it up a notch. Kind of get mad.”
Johnson seems like he’s already at that point.