“It reminded me a little of the Atlanta outing last year,” said manager Buck Showalter. “A lot of strikes. Throwing zeros up after you score some runs. He was good. He was the difference today. We all would have signed up in blood for that today.
“What are those things where you hold the bats like they do at the wedding chapel? I’m sure the bullpen would have had one of those waiting for him when he came in. That’s Elvis in Vegas, right?”
Today, it was Hammel in D.C. that made all the difference.
“It seemed like we were back in spring training with three straight 1 o’clock games,” Showalter said. “It was a challenge for everybody physically, emotionally and mentally. After four tough games in Toronto, I can’t tell you how proud I am of everybody. And Ham was outstanding in a much-needed outing.
“It’s hard to do. Pitching in the American League and pitching in the big leagues is hard. Doing what he did today and what he has done for us ... he got a return for it today. He had good stuff. He had good command of multiple pitches. And if you give (Matt) Wieters that type of repertoire to work with, he’s going to make it tough.”
Tommy Hunter wasn’t available today after grabbing Jose Bautista’s comebacker with his bare hand yesterday in Toronto. Showalter wanted to avoid using closer Jim Johnson, who threw 37 pitches yesterday and 14 on Saturday. The cracks in the bullpen were showing.
“If we can get one more good outing tomorrow, we can get back on our feet down there physically,” Showalter said. “I challenge anybody to go into Toronto four days and not have challenges. Those guys didn’t allow us to breathe, so you’ve just got to keep grinding. I’ll tell you, that’s a grind W there today. They answered the call.
“It’s an everyday grind. That’s what separates people. That’s what’s different about our sport. There are days when you’ve got to make a little call down below and I don’t have to make it. It comes from within.”
Showalter said he considered leaving Hammel in the game instead of going with Darren O’Day in the ninth.
“I felt good for him, because he puts so much into being there for his team and today was one of those days where he was there for us,” Showalter said.
Yamaico Navarro collected his first two RBIs this season.
“He’s grinding,” Showalter said. “I mean, he’s trying to make use of every opportunity he gets. He was frustrated with the error. I guess they called it a stolen base. It’s not a stolen base. But you get in different stages in your career where you say, ‘What am I going to do, wallow around?’ Didn’t start off well, but he came back and had some good at-bats for us.”
Showalter isn’t sure whether Hunter will be available on Tuesday, and he’s not going to broadcast it for the Nats.
“He feels good,” Showalter said. “He shook my hand after the game. That’s a good sign.”
The Nats will start right-hander Nathan Karns on Tuesday after calling him up from Double-A Harrisburg. He was their 2012 minor league Pitcher of the Year.