Another Nationals loss, another postgame press conference with a frustrated Davey Johnson.
The Nats fell 4-2 this afternoon, wrapping up a three-game sweep at the hands of the Cardinals and pushing the Nationals below .500 for the first time since the last day of the 2011 season.
Johnson made some minor lineup changes for today’s game and said we should expect more of the same tomorrow. Steve Lombardozzi will start tomorrow night, Johnson said, and it sounds like Lombardozzi will likely play third base and lead off. Johnson also indicated that Jayson Werth will be moved down in the order. Adam LaRoche will be back in the lineup after getting most of today off.
“It’s frustrating. We’re just not doing the things we’re capable of doing,” Johnson said. “Guys are trying to do too much. Desi (Ian Desmond) looked like he was trying to hit the ball to the light tower. Little things where guys are trying to create something that’s not there yet. It’s just one of those things. Battle out of it. ...
“I think some guys up in the lineup, I’m gonna have to juggle it up and do a few things tomorrow. Change the mindset.”
The Nats went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position this afternoon and scored two runs, marking the 10th time in 21 games that they pushed two or fewer runs across the plate.
The Nationals/Expos franchise was swept by the Cardinals for the first time since September 1969 at Montreal, but the Nats’ issues right now are on a bigger scale than just these last three games.
“It’s just, I’m more concerned about how everybody’s playing,” Johnson said. “We’re just not doing the things we’re capable of doing right now. It’ll change, but I’m gonna have to jumble things up a little bit. Try to light a fire.”
Johnson has said he feels that, from an individual standpoint, the Nats are trying to do too much, and it’s possible he as a manager was trying to do too much when he sent Jhonatan Solano on a hit-and-run with runners at the corners and one out in the seventh inning. With the Nats trailing 3-1 at the time, Lombardozzi swung through a 3-2 pitch from Joe Kelly for strike three, and Solano was easily gunned out at second to end the inning and the threat.
“Real confident,” Johnson said, when asked about his confidence in Lombardozzi that he could put the ball in play. “He hits a lot of groundballs. He usually makes contact. Just a microcosm. He was a little more aggressive, the ball was running off the plate and he swings at it.”
Stephen Strasburg allowed just two hits and held the Cardinals scoreless over his final six innings of work today, but the three runs he gave up in the first inning were too much for the Nats to overcome. Strasburg had trouble getting ahead of hitters in that first inning, which has been a consistent problem for him early in games this season.
“Well, I think maybe he’s trying to do too much,” Johnson said. “But when he just pitches like he did after the first inning, he got the ball down and everything’s more effective. And he attacked the strike zone. Like the last time out, he was trying to make the perfect pitch and missing away. It’s a lot easier to pitch ahead.
“Cat (pitching coach Steve McCatty) hammers that in on him. The first inning was like how he’s been approaching the other ballgames, but after the first inning, he made it look easy. He had a really low pitch count. He could’ve gone another inning, even. But it’s not just one thing, it’s a whole bunch of little things.”
Johnson isn’t worried about being under .500 (“It’s so early. ... I don’t look at that too much,” he said), and he isn’t concerned that the Braves have a chance to move six games up on the Nats with a win today.
He just wants to see his guys play to their potential.
“I thought everybody was up and loose and ready to go, just couldn’t ... we hit some balls hard and they made great plays,” Johnson said. “Those are momentum shifts. They hit a little bit soft and it drops in. You try to change that momentum, make something happen and it just doesn’t work. But there’s always tomorrow.”