Johnson discusses Nats’ 3-1 extra-inning loss

It’s not hard to pinpoint the major failing in tonight’s 3-1 Nationals loss. It’s the same issue that’s plagued this team pretty much the entire season.

The Nats scored a single run over 10 innings. They went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position. They left 12 runners on base.

Davey Johnson’s team had the bases loaded and one out in the first. The Nats got a leadoff double in the second. They put two runners on with one out in the third. They had two on with one out in the seventh. In the eighth, the Nats had runners at the corners and one out.

Zeros were put up in all of those innings. Won’t win many games that way.

“We had a ton of chances,” Johnson said, pausing for seconds on end in between sentences. “I don’t know. At times, we’re putting good at-bats up there. I don’t know. That was a tough one. We had several opportunities.”

Jayson Werth went 0-for-5 and left seven runners on base. Ian Desmond went 1-for-4 but left five runners, himself. Both of those guys had golden opportunities in the first and third innings to put up early runs on Dodgers starter Zack Greinke but were unable to come through.

“I talk to Desi, sometimes Desi expands the zone when the other pitcher’s in trouble,” Johnson said. “That’s when you narrow it down. He knows that. And he’s getting better on that. He had a good at-bat, not the first time when he had the bases loaded and took a curveball and then a cutter off the plate up and he hit it over (to second base). He’s in the jam and they know, an aggressive hitter like him, they know he’s looking to swing the bat early and they’ll make borderline pitches to have him hit those early. And if you’re patient and take them, then they have to come to you.

“Jayson Werth, I think Greinke made some good pitches. The umpire was calling, pretty much all night long, was calling the low strike. I can’t tell if they’re cutting off the plate or whatever. But we got in great hitting counts and we didn’t do nothing. And that’s what’s frustrating.”

Johnson presses on his guys all the time to work themselves into hitter’s counts in order to get a quality pitch to hit. It’s then that the Nats skipper wants his guys to let it rip. That approach was lacking a bit tonight.

“When we get really ahead in the count and then we can cherry-pick, we’re either making it too fine or not putting it hard in play,” Johnson said. “That’s been kind of what we’ve been doing all year.”

So how do you fix this? How do you get out of this rut?

“Just keep swinging. Just keep swinging. I mean, it’s frustrating.”

Through this all, the Nats have kept a positive outlook and kept their spirits high. That won’t last long if they don’t start playing better.

“The only thing that helps morale is when you do the things you’re capable of doing,” Johnson said. “It’s kind of hard to be happy if you’re not capable of doing what you’re doing. I mean, loud music and jumping up and down ... the only cure for it is to go out and express that talent. Make it happen.”

Craig Stammen allowed the game-winning run in the 10th, giving up back-to-back doubles to Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez. The only out Stammen recorded came on a sac bunt. Stammen’s ERA is now up to 3.96 after today’s outing.

“It’s all about making pitches,” Johnson said. “He hung a pitch up in the zone ... he made a good pitch to Gonzalez, he hit it down the line. Kind of hung a pitch up to Ramirez and he smoked it.”

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