PHOENIX - Not only did tonight’s 8-4 Nationals win finish off Stephen Strasburg’s season on a high note and feature Jayson Werth’s 25th homer of the year, it also brought Davey Johnson one win away from reaching a statistical milestone that somewhat strangely holds a decent amount of importance for him.
With one more win this season, Johnson would be guaranteed to finish at least 300 games above .500 for his managerial career. If the Nats don’t get the win tomorrow, Johnson will send left-hander Gio Gonzalez to the mound Sunday to try and secure his spot in the 300-wins-over club.
If one of those actually exists, that is.
“I got the pressure on me,” Johnson said with a smile after tonight’s victory. “Gio’s ready to go in case (we don’t) get it tomorrow. That’s what I wanted. Let’s go. Win one for the Gipper.”
Strasburg was the story tonight, as the Nats’ opening day starter closed his season with seven solid innings, allowing two runs on six hits. He finishes the 2013 campaign with a 3.00 ERA in 183 innings, with 191 strikeouts and 56 walks.
“He started out slow, a little rusty,” Johnson said of Strasburg’s outing tonight. “He wasn’t making his pitches, left the ball up. But he settled down. He pitched a good ballgame. I’m glad we got him that one. I’m sorry we couldn’t do the last one. Phenomenal young man. He’s going to have a great career.
“We didn’t score him any runs (this season). We, a bunch of times, didn’t score any runs, or one or two runs when he was starting. His numbers indicate he should have won 15 ballgames. He was certainly consistent all season long.
“There’s still a few things that he can do better. He knows what they are. He gets a little too regular at times. But he made improvements. He’s getting to be the complete pitcher. He’s awfully good as it is. But there’s a little room in there for improvement.”
Johnson agreed with the suggestion that this was a big season for Strasburg in the sense that it can serve as a mental building block for him.
“I think for a lot of reasons,” Johnson said. “There were little things that irritated him. I think he grew from all the experiences he had this year. I think the whole ball club, same way. We had a lot of little growing to do.”
Does Johnson think that Strasburg is getting better at moving past the negative aspects that can pop up during his outings?
“I do. I really do,” Johnson said. “He’s much calmer. He’s not letting the little things bother him anymore. He’s right where he needs to be.”
The Nats didn’t always give Strasburg much run support this season, but they did tonight. Werth’s monster three-run homer in the fifth put them on top 5-2, and Wilson Ramos crushed a three-run shot of his own in the eighth that all but put the game out of reach.
Werth’s homer puts him one behind Ryan Zimmerman (who has 26 longballs) for the team lead, and he got to the quarter-century mark in style, sending the ball off the facade of the second deck in left. ESPN’s Hit Tracker measured the blast at 448 feet.
“He’s been feeling it all year long,” Johnson said. “He was down for a month or so, but he’s been awfully good, locked in.”