As Davey Johnson walked into the press conference room following tonight’s 11-3 Nationals loss, he delivered a one-liner with as much sarcasm as a one-liner can possibly have attached to it.
“That was fun,” Johnson said.
Tonight’s blowout defeat was anything but fun for the Nats, not just because of the manner in which it happened but also because of its implications on their playoff chances.
The Nats entered this series 6 1/2 games back of the Reds for the final wild card spot in the National League. They had won 14 of 19 to get back into the mix, so to speak, but they’ve now lost two in a row to the sub-.500 Mets, and after tonight will sit 7 1/2 back of Cincinnati with just 27 games remaining.
“It’s one of my worst nightmares, dropping a series to the Mets, but we just need to turn it around, starting tomorrow,” Johnson said. “Just almost sweep out. That’s what we’ve got to do.”
Tonight’s game turned sour pretty early on, as Dan Haren allowed seven runs on nine hits over just 2 1/3 innings of work. Haren worked a 1-2-3 first inning but then retired just five of his next 13 batters. He only gave up one extra-base hit, but the Mets base-hit him to death.
“A thousand little paper cuts,” Johnson said. “I don’t think they hit the ball that hard, but a lot of hits.
“It was like momentum once they started getting these little dink hits. Nine of them in two innings? Two and a third innings? He was up (in the zone) a little more than usual, but they were little jam-shots, little off the ends. Bunch of little singles.”
Johnson had a fairly quick hook for Haren given how many of the Mets’ hits were little dink shots, but his attempt to get things under control by bringing in Tanner Roark failed when Roark walked two and then allowed an RBI single, making it 8-0 in the third.
“Everything that could go wrong in that second or third inning did,” Johnson said. “I tried to change the momentum. (Roark) pitched well after that, but the cat was out of the bag.”
The Nats didn’t catch many breaks tonight, but they didn’t play a smooth game, either. Anthony Rendon made a basic miscue in the eighth when he took his time throwing a ball across the diamond on a routine grounder, allowing Eric Young to reach on an infield single.
“Bunch of little things and same way later on, Rendon kind of nonchalants, doesn’t know the runner’s speed,” Johnson said. “He’s fast. Little things like that and the dam breaks.”
Last night, Bryce Harper heard that he needed to start hustling after jogging out a groundball in a key spot. Tonight, Harper turned the hustle-meter up to 100, trying to turn a double into a triple on a ball into the right field corner in the eighth with the Nats down 11-2. Harper was thrown out fairly easily at third base.
“He needs to quit listening to all this stuff,” said Johnson, who believes that Harper let all the chatter about his lack of hustle affect him tonight. “He’s a good baseball player. He’s got great baseball instincts, but sometimes he gets overwhelmed with all the stuff going on. Still young in that regard. Get caught up in playing the game. Still learning.”