As much as manager Davey Johnson would like the Nationals’ method of winning games to be the score-early, defend-late m.o. he’s used throughout his career - and he’s certainly hoping to mold the club into that kind of team - the way they beat the Mets on Monday night is probably all they’re set up to do this year.
On the nights they’ve been victorious this year, they’ve mostly gotten there with a solid enough effort from their starter to get the ball to their best two relievers, a couple runs and solid defense. They won’t separate themselves from many teams, but by now, they should have the stomach to play in close games.
They’ve now been in 50 one-run games this year, winning 24 of them. Their 3-2 win over the Mets on Monday night came by the formula they’ve used all year, and now they’re only two wins from reaching 70 for the first time since 2007. That’s not a lofty milestone, by any means, but they’ve still got a shot to catch the Mets for third place in the division. In their own way, the Nationals have made some progress this year.
The Nationals won on Monday, getting their second straight win for the first time in three weeks, with another solid outing from Ross Detwiler. The left-hander took a shutout into the sixth inning before losing command of his sinker and giving up two runs. But he was sharp for the fourth time in five outings, and though he didn’t get the win, he allowed the Nationals to bypass the weaker part of their bullpen.
For all the talk about how the Nationals’ relievers were going to be the fixture of the team, their bullpen has largely been reduced to Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard. Sean Burnett has struggled all year, and injuries have taken Cole Kimball and Ryan Mattheus, two of the team’s promising young relievers, out of the mix. If the Nationals can get to Clippard and Storen - and they only needed one out from Todd Coffey on Monday - they’ve got a great shot to win. It worked for them on Monday, with Clippard pitching two shutout innings and Storen earning his 35th save.
It’s not necessarily the way Johnson would prefer to win, but it’s all the Nationals are set up to do this year. And after a stretch of 13 losses in 18 games, they got back to what’s worked for them on Monday.