Jordan Zimmermann approached Johnson following today’s 5-4 win over the Pirates and shot a one-liner at his skipper.
“Same time tomorrow?” Zimmermann quipped.
Following his session with reporters, Johnson walked by Ian Desmond’s locker.
“Meeting of the year,” Desmond said, his comment oozing with sarcasm. “That’s how you get Manager of the Year, right there.”
The Nationals didn’t play a perfect ballgame today, but they did just enough to squeak by the Pirates. The Nats went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position, left 11 on base and served up two home runs to Pittsburgh hitters, but they’ll leave the visitors’ clubhouse with smiles on their faces after scoring the game-winning run in the top of the ninth and holding on for a win.
“Well, we got a few more guys on base. We didn’t get many in, but ...” Johnson said, his voice tailing off and a smile breaking onto his face. “(Stephen Strasburg), I thought he was throwing good. I like the way he started the ballgame. He was going right after them, making good pitches ... He just made a couple mistakes right down the heart of the plate and you can’t do that. But he held us right in there and the bullpen did a good job. We needed that one.”
With the score 4-4 and one out in the ninth, Ryan Zimmerman was hit by a pitch on the left leg and Adam LaRoche singled to right. Those two are far from the fastest guys on the Nationals’ roster, but they both took off on a 1-1 pitch from Pirates lefty Tony Watson to Tyler Moore, executing a double steal that was so surprising and well-timed, catcher Russell Martin didn’t even bother to make a throw.
Moore then lifted a sac fly to deep right two pitches later, bringing in Zimmerman with the game-winning run.
“That was a no brainer,” Johnson said of the double steal. “(Watson) was like 1.8 (seconds) to the plate. ... A couple of their guys, they’ve got great stuff but they’re real slow to the plate. And we haven’t had many guys on to have any opportunities to do much. But today we had the guys on, just couldn’t get the base hit. But big sac fly by Moore. That was big. It’s tough. Our guys are grinding, we’re just not getting it done.”
Moore had struck out with the bases loaded in both of his previous two at-bats leading up to the sac fly. When he came back to the dugout after his sac fly in the ninth, he was mobbed by his teammates.
“Everybody’s pulling for everybody,” Johnson said. “It’s a great club, we’re just not doing it. For whatever reason, we’re just not quite getting it done. But today was fun because we had a bunch of guys on. I enjoyed that. And Adam LaRoche, he had a couple good at-bats. That’s big. And Zim looked more like himself. If the middle of our lineup gets going, we can be awful tough. Takes a lot of heat off everybody.”
Johnson felt that Strasburg really only made three bad pitches all day - a 1-2 curveball he left up to Clint Barmes in the third inning that resulted in a single, a fastball right down the middle to Starling Marte that ended up landing in the seats in right-center for a two-run homer and another center-cut fastball to Barmes in the fifth that became another two-run shot.
Other than that, Johnson liked what he saw from his ace, especially his ability to hold runners and be quick to the plate, which has been an ongoing issue for the right-hander.
“He’s getting better,” Johnson said. “He’s quick to the plate but what they do is at times once he starts down, he goes. He’s getting better at coming down and holding it. But that’s why they steal off him, because once he starts coming down, they go. Then he’s like about 1.5 (seconds to the plate). But we’re taking care of that. I like the progress he’s making on that. That’s big.”