Johnson discusses Nats’ seventh straight win

The Reds just lost to the Brewers, meaning the Nationals are now 4 1/2 games back of the final National League wild card spot (four back in the loss column) with 15 games left.

This is getting a bit more interesting.

After tonight’s 6-1 Nationals win over the Phillies, manager Davey Johnson was asked if he’d taken a peek out at the Reds score on the out-of-town scoreboard at any point tonight. The Nats skipper said that he hadn’t, and was then told that Cincinnati was losing.

“Oh,” Johnson said, cracking a smile. “That’s too bad.”

The Nats have now won 24 of their last 33 games, and have been victorious in seven in a row, putting some pressure on the suddenly slumping Reds. Tonight, they were led by home runs by Ryan Zimmerman and Wilson Ramos, but also by five strong innings from Ross Ohlendorf, who stepped in to make a spot start after Stephen Strasburg was scratched from tonight’s game due to right forearm tightness.

Ohlendorf has now started six games for the Nats this season. In those games, the Nats are 6-0.

“Oh, he’s been great,” Johnson said. “Was great out of the ‘pen and he was great starting. He had the same little problem, (hitting a wall in the) fifth or sixth inning, hot weather, because he’s a maximum-effort guy. But I thought he had good stuff. He was a little wilder early, but throwing hard. But pitched out of that jam in the first and then calmed down. He was pretty good.”

Ohlendorf allowed just a first-inning run over his five frames, and then turned things over to the Nats’ bullpen. Both Craig Stammen and Fernando Abad got some help from Bryce Harper, who threw out a runner at second leading off both the sixth and seventh innings, giving the 20-year-old 12 outfield assists on the season.

“Both those, you’d think they’re sure doubles,” Johnson said. “Back to the wall, and make perfect throws. It’s good to take his mind off hitting. Give him something else to do.”

“He’s getting better (defensively). He’s still a real young outfielder, but he’s got a good arm. Accurate. He likes it.”

The Nats had four of their six runs come in on infield hits today. Ian Desmond had two RBI infield hits, and Ramos drove in two in the fifth when his hot-shot grounder up the middle deflected off the foot of Phillies pitcher Luis Garcia and shot up high into the air, allowing Harper to score from second.

“We were pounding the ball,” Johnson joked. “I think all the ribbies were in the infield. ... We’re getting a few breaks now. The ball hit by Ramos went off the pitcher’s foot, went up about three stories high. Nobody knew where it was. And Bryce was running hard, that was great.”

Zimmerman now has nine homers in his last 11 games, a truly remarkable achievement for a guy who had just 15 longballs through his first 122 games played this season.

“I think it coincides with him feeling better in the field,” Johnson said. “But I’d say about three weeks ago, in BP, he started pulling the ball better. And I would say only one of these home runs the last (couple weeks) have been right field. They’ve been getting him out early throwing him down and in, inside. Now he’s hammering that ball. So I like it.”

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