Tonight’s ballgame ended more than four hours and 10 minutes after it began, with a 72-minute rain delay in there, 11 total pitchers making an appearance and the Nationals and Marlins combining to go 3-for-23 with runners in scoring position.
Not the prettiest of games, that’s for sure. But don’t tell Davey Johnson that.
“It was a nice ballgame, since we won it,” Johnson said.
The Nats held on for a tight 4-3 win in a game in which both starting pitchers were done before they’d seen the third inning thanks to a rain delay in the bottom of the second. For Johnson, the delay was just long enough to knock Stephen Strasburg from the game, considering the length of time the right-hander needed to sit and the fact that his back started tightening up a bit.
“After about, I guess it was 45 minutes, we asked him how he’s ... he’s going down and playing some catch. And he was getting a little bit stiff in the back,” Johnson said. “It was gonna be, if it was an hour, and then it kept raining, so it became an hour and it was a no-brainer at that point. But generally speaking, maximum for me is about an hour. But the fact that he got a little bit stiff in the back, he’s not even going to hit in that situation.”
The fact that Strasburg only threw 22 pitches tonight could actually allow the Nats to bring him back to start during the upcoming series against the Mets.
“We’ll see how he is tomorrow and the next day, but he could come back Sunday,” Johnson said. “(Today is) like a side day three days off,Thursday, Friday, Saturday. He could go Sunday. But we’ll see tomorrow.”
After the rain delay wrapped up, Johnson leaned heavily on a bullpen that’s gotten a ton of work lately. Craig Stammen allowed a run over three innings. Ryan Mattheus surrendered two runs in his inning of work. Then Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano each turned in a scoreless frame, and helped lock down a one-run win.
Mattheus allowed a bomb of a homer to Giancarlo Stanton leading off the sixth, his first inning of work since getting called up from Triple-A. He then allowed three more hits, allowing the Marlins to briefly take the lead.
“Didn’t really go after them like he can, and then I think it was the split that was hit nine miles off of Stanton,” Johnson said. “(A) 3-2 split that didn’t do anything. But I like where he’s at. He’ll be all right. Hopefully.”
Then it was Storen for the seventh, and the right-hander started in shaky fashion, allowing a leadoff single and a walk, bringing up Stanton again. Storen fell behind Stanton 2-0, then got a visit from pitching coach Steve McCatty. A foul ball that was absolutely crushed into the second deck in left followed, but Storen recovered to strike out Stanton and get out of the jam.
“Well, I sent McCatty out there, and he told him the magic words, and he came from 2-0 to Stanton and struck him out and then it was easy going from there,” said Johnson, wrapping it all up.
What were the magic words?
“We don’t ever disclose those,” the skipper said with a smile.
Soriano notched his second save in as many nights, and this one was stress-free, with the closer setting the Marlins down in order in the ninth.
“Tonight was huge,” Johnson said of Soriano. “We’re down to (Fernando) Abad, and I’d hate to go back to (Tanner) Roark. Roark will be definitely in the ‘pen tomorrow. So he may not be starting. See how it goes.”
Ian Desmond went 3-for-4 with the game-winning RBI tonight, his run-scoring single in the seventh following an intentional walk to Jayson Werth proving to be the difference.
“He’s had a very good, consistent year just like he did last year, getting big hits,” Johnson said. “He’s in a good position right now. He’s not getting beat with the fastball, and he’s taking the fastball outside the other way. He’s a tough out. Understood why they (intentionally walked Werth), because I think Werth was 4-for-5 off (Marlins reliever Mike Dunn) with a bomb or so.”
Desmond got the job done, and so did the Nats, who have now won 13 of their last 18.