CHICAGO - The self-deprecating one-liners from Davey Johnson in relation to the Nationals’ offense keep on coming.
“Eleven runs? You’d think it’s Christmas!” Johnson quipped after tonight’s 11-6 Nats win over the Cubs.
The Nationals jumped out on top of the Cubs 6-1 tonight, only to see their hosts even things up with a five-run fifth inning. Ross Ohlendorf - making his first start back off the disabled list - gave up a two-run homer to Anthony Rizzo, and Illinois native Tanner Roark then came in and allowed four straight hits in relief, letting the Cubs tie it up.
No matter. The Nats then ran off five straight runs of their own to take control, with Scott Hairston’s pinch-hit three-run homer in the seventh giving Johnson’s bunch a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
“It was a weird ballgame,” Johnson said. “All kinds of strange things happened, but Ohlendorf was pitching real good, then he kind of ran out of gas, just like he was done. Then Roark, giving up five straight hits or something like that. I knew that wasn’t going to happen again, that’s why I sent him back out. I knew the chances were he’d pitch a lot better the next time.
“And the offense came around. It was great to see Scotty Hairston get a hold (of one), get a big hit for us.”
Hairston’s blast was his first homer with the Nats since coming over in a trade with the Cubs in early July. The extra-base hits have been hard to come by for Hairston this season (he was slugging just .286 with the Nats coming into tonight), but he delivered in a big spot after the Cubs had intentionally walked Jayson Werth to get to Hairston.
“He’s a smart, veteran type player and he’s gotten a lot of big hits in the past,” Johnson said of Hairston. “That’s his role. He came over to me before the inning came up. He said, ‘What is it?’ I said, ‘Fifth. Fifth up (in the inning).’ Then he goes right up there, and that was fun to watch.
“I know he wants to show those guys what they’re missing, and he did a heck of a job. He hasn’t really got big hits for us in the pinch-hit role, but that certainly makes up for anything he hasn’t done in the past. That was big.”
Ohlendorf went 4 1/3 innings, allowing four runs on six hits, and Roark then followed by allowing two runs on four hits in 1 2/3 innings. After a shaky start pitching in front of more than 100 friends and family members, Roark struck out the side in the sixth and ended up scavenging his third major league win.
Johnson was asked if he thought Roark was a little too fired up early on, pitching in his hometown park in front of so many supporters.
“I don’t know, but I’ll tell ya, I thought he made all good pitches,” Johnson said. “He kept the ball down, and sometimes all of a sudden the momentum shifts and the guys all of a sudden feel wonderful and just swing the bat and hit good pitches and all found holes. Maybe it is that he can’t come into games with runners on. That’s what (pitching coach Steve McCatty) was telling me. I said, ‘Don’t go that far.’ But worked out all right. I hate to have to use Clip (Tyler Clippard) and (Rafael) Soriano in that game, but I had to stop (Craig) Stammen short. I need someone to give me some innings tomorrow if something happens. And no choice but to send those guys out there. And one guy short, and after Roark pitched a couple innings, he’s not good for a couple days.”
Ohlendorf’s fastball sat at 92-94 mph and touched 95 mph tonight, which is a good sign for a guy coming back from right shoulder inflammation.
“Well, the reports were he was throwing a lot better (on his rehab stint),” Johnson said. “He wasn’t actually throwing up 94, but I knew even the 78 pitches that he threw his last start is nothing like throwing up here. I was hoping he could give me 90 pitches, but really, I probably should’ve held him to about 80. I had somebody warming up and (Kurt) Suzuki came around by the dugout and hollered in there, ‘He’s out of gas!’ And I said, ‘We know!’ But it was a great outcome and a good team win.”
Soriano again made things interesting in the ninth, despite having a five-run lead to work with. He allowed three hits and ended up retiring the final out of the game when Rizzo made a baserunning error, making too wide of a turn around third and then getting caught in a rundown.
“Yeah it’s been kind of a weird year for that,” Johnson said. “He’s given up more hits than he usually does. But we got the win, and he didn’t give up anything, so all is good.”
On an injury note, Ian Desmond felt his back tighten up during batting practice when he was hitting what he called “600-foot” homers with the help of a tailwind. He tried to play through the discomfort, but Johnson pulled him in a double-switch in the fifth inning as a precaution. Both Desmond and Johnson said the shortstop should be fine.
“Hopefully he’ll be able to play tomorrow,” Johnson said. “So we’ll see.”