Not liking the overall mindset and offensive approach he was seeing from his team lately, Davey Johnson did something before today’s game that he hates doing: He held a team meeting.
According to those in the room for the chat, it wasn’t anything too serious. The meeting lasted just a few minutes, Johnson was upbeat throughout and he gave the team a simple message.
“It was more just story time,” Jordan Zimmermann said with a smile.
So what was said?
“He was just trying to get us relaxed and also not just wait but go out and take something, be aggressive and just be ready to play,” said Jeff Kobernus, who got his first major league hit in today’s win.
The message apparently got through just fine. The Nats smacked 14 hits and plated seven runs in their 7-0 win over the Twins in the first half of today’s doubleheader. They had a five-run fifth inning, a frame that saw them score more runs than they’d put up in any of their last seven games. The 14 hits were also the second-most they’ve tallied this season.
The Nats are now 2-0 in games following Johnson-led team meetings this season. (The other came May 4 in Pittsburgh and was followed by a 5-4 Nats win.) I guess we know what has to happen throughout the rest of the season.
“I’ll have (a meeting) every day if we get 14 hits and seven runs,” Johnson joked.
The Nats have struggled to put together much offense this season, but those issues became even more apparent during this recent stretch, when they’ve been shut down by mediocre starting pitchers and had issues notching hits with runners in scoring position and in big spots.
Today, they went 5-for-10 with runners in scoring position and got to Twins starter Scott Diamond for seven runs (six earned) over 4 2/3 innings.
“To me, confidence comes by attacking, just being aggressive,” Johnson said. “Sometimes, when we don’t swing the bats, we look like we’re a little passive. I liked our approach today. We were more in attack mode. I like that.”
Ian Desmond drove in two, Anthony Rendon had three RBIs and Kobernus had two hits and a walk in his first big league start. His first hit in the bigs was a slow roller up the third base line that he legged out for an infield single.
“It was nice to get it out of the way. I don’t think I can tell anybody that I hit the ball hard the first hit that I got,” Kobernus said. “It definitely feels good to be able to help the team win and that’s what it’s all about. It’s a different role coming off the bench. You just try to be ready every day.”
Kobernus and Rendon - two rookies still adjusting to the big league level - both had nice offensive games but also had an embarrassing moment on the field. Kobernus was doubled off first base in the third when he lost track of Steve Lombardozzi’s line drive to center, and Rendon dropped a pop-up in the third that extended the Twins’ inning.
Zimmermann worked out of the inning without incident, and after he caught the next pop-up that came his way, Rendon started laughing and gave a sarcastic fist pump.
“I heard the crowd,” Rendon said, a big smile stretching across his face. “They were all cheering, and Desmond, he like tipped his hat to me. And I like to have a little fun out there. Act like a clown.”
It’s easy to act like a clown when your team is piling up the runs and your starting pitcher is dealing. Zimemermann allowed just two hits over seven scoreless innings and improved to 9-3 on the season. This came after he had his neck wrapped with a heating pad before the game to try and release some stiffness in the neck, which has lingered for a couple weeks now.
“It was just a little tight a couple days ago so I didn’t want to take any chances,” Zimmermann said. “I figured I’d heat it up and it’d be good to go.”
Zimmermann’s pitch count stood at 64 after just three innings, but he got a five-pitch fourth and got through seven frames on 111 pitches.
“The curveball was good, the fastball was good the whole time,” Zimmermann said. “The first three innings I threw 60 pitches and they kept fouling stuff off. It wasn’t like I was getting behind too much but I needed some quick innings, and the next two were pretty quick and I kind of got the pitch count where it was manageable and I was able to go seven.”
Johnson said that Denard Span will be in the lineup for the nightcap after a sore right foot kept him out of the first game. As for Adam LaRoche, who was removed from Game 1 in the seventh, everything is good there, as well. At least, everything is good now.
“He just had a nature call, that’s all,” Johnson said with a laugh.