Davey Johnson couldn’t bear to watch Stephen Strasburg finish off his shutout in tonight’s 6-0 Nationals win.
That had nothing to do with Strasburg or anything Johnson was seeing on the field. Turns out, Johnson’s back was acting up so much that the Nats’ 70-year-old skipper had to head back to the trainer’s room to apply some heat packs and watch the final two innings of the game while lying down.
Johnson will spend part of tomorrow’s off-day getting a procedure done on his back that he hopes will alleviate the pain, and he expects to be back ready to go when the Giants come to town Tuesday.
Tonight, Strasburg and the Nats closed out the Phillies without him.
Strasburg surrendered just four hits, struck out 10 and needed just 99 pitches to complete his first career shutout. He didn’t allow a Phillies runner to get into scoring position all game long, and after tweaking a minor groin injury in the second, which brought out Johnson, trainer Lee Kuntz, pitching coach Steve McCatty, Strasburg retired 14 of 15.
“What a great job,” Johnson said. “We were concerned when we went out early in the game that it was something with his arm, but he had a little kind of ... when he flies open, he tweaked the groin area. If he didn’t fly open, it didn’t bother him. Obviously, it didn’t bother him. Still throwing very hard at the end. Ninty-nine (pitches)? But it was scary. I mean, I think about the fifth when he kind of fell off to the left, he kind of fell open. I think it was more losing his footing there. But you expect more of those (games) from him, with his talent.
“I think what helped him was they started swinging at pitches early in the count. And he was making quality pitches. I don’t know how many strikes to balls, but he was pounding the zone. When he starts sniffing that goal line, he’s amped up. He was, I haven’t seen him throw that hard all year, consistently.”
Strasburg said that in the past, when he hasn’t felt good during his pre-start session in the bullpen, he’ll come out trying to throw everything by guys and overpower them. Tonight, he located his pitches better and let his stuff do the work.
“He’s always showed great command with his fastball down in the zone,” Johnson said. “And basically fastball, curveball. I don’t think he threw that many changeups today, it was basically fastball, curveball, but it was both sides of the plate. When he’s like that, he’ll have low-pitched games. (Ten) strikeouts? That’s, going deep in games, low pitch counts, striking out that number. Instead of going up and trying to miss the bats, he was pretty much saying, ‘Here, hit it,’ which is great.”
Jayson Werth delivered his second straight three-hit game today, but he left after just six innings due to a bruised right knee that he suffered when sliding into home in the fifth inning.
“We were in, sharing (training) tables there in the eighth inning,” Johnson said. “I think he’s in worse shape than I am. He had more ice on him than I had heat on me. But he tweaked his right knee when he slid into home. So Dr. Wiemi (Douoguih) was back there. Didn’t think it was anything other than a pretty good bruise. He should be good Tuesday.”
When Werth slid into home in the fifth, the ball got a few feet away from Phillies catcher Erik Kratz, and Kratz was unable to find it. Ian Desmond, who had just made the turn around third base at the time, made the heads-up decision to sprint for home, and he too slid in just ahead of a Kratz tag. That run opened the score up to 5-0.
“That was great. That was heads-up,” Johnson said. “They were kind of napping.”
Steve Lombardozzi added three hits and an RBI, and Wilson Ramos, Denard Span and Desmond also all had multi-hit nights.
The win finished off a three-game sweep of the Phillies, gave the Nats the lead over their division rivals in the season series and kept things going in the right direction.
“Coming back and sweeping them was big,” Johnson said. “The way we beat them was good pitching and good hitting, and we haven’t been able to get the combination together. I think everybody in the lineup swinging the bats, that’s key, and of course great pitching, you look pretty good. You’re never as good as you look when you win, and you’re never as bad as you look when you lose and we’ve been looking pretty bad here lately.
“We just need to keep it going. It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”