A reporter asked Davey Johnson after tonight’s 2-1 Nationals loss, a loss that dropped the Nats to 54-59 on the season and left them averaging a paltry 3.68 runs per game, what can be done about the lack of offense.
Johnson let out a deep sigh.
“I’m asking you,” Johnson responded. “Either they’re pitching that good, or we just ... I don’t know. I don’t have an answer.”
The Nats left the bases loaded in the seventh when Adam LaRoche grounded out to first to end the threat, and then their last six hitters to come to the plate all struck out swinging against Braves relievers Jordan Walden and Craig Kimbrel.
Overall, the Nats went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine runners.
The LaRoche at-bat was the Nats’ last chance to do any damage with runners on base. LaRoche came up against Braves lefty Luis Avilan after Avilan worked around the right-handed hitting (and red-hot) Jayson Werth, walking him on five pitches.
LaRoche worked the count to 2-0 and then grounded out to first on a two-seam fastball off the plate inside. It was a tough matchup for LaRoche, going lefty-on-lefty, but he didn’t get a real good pitch to handle there.
“That’s why he left (Avilan) in there,” Johnson said. “He’s had a good year, not going to give them a good pitch to hit and make them go after something. Roachie had him in a favorable count.
“Just trying to make something happen. Base hit there would win the ballgame.”
Gio Gonzalez allowed two runs over seven innings, and both runs came on one swing of the bat - a single to right by Evan Gattis in the fifth that brought in B.J. Upton and Andrelton Simmons.
Gonzalez thought that the Nats had thrown out Upton trying to steal earlier in the inning on a bang-bang play. Upton was called safe, the inning continued, and Gattis delivered.
“I thought he was outstanding,” Johnson said of Gonzalez. “I think he got a little upset, he thought the guy was out. It looked from my angle like he got in there, but I couldn’t tell. That kind of upset him. But the big thing: They bunted him over, and we didn’t. Those little things are big.”
The missed bunt opportunity Johnson references came from Gonzalez when he popped up a bunt attempt in the bottom of the fifth that could have allowed Anthony Rendon to move to third with just one out. Rendon, who had doubled leading off the inning, was left stranded.
The Nats are now 14 1/2 games back in the division, and Johnson was clearly beaten down by yet another loss after the game.
“I never look at too much about how many you’re up or how many you’re behind,” Johnson said. “It’s how you play every day. We just need to play better. It’s that simple.”