In explaining his decision to stick with Ross Detwiler when the 25-year-old left-hander put runners on first and third in the top of the sixth inning on Monday night, Nationals' manager Davey Johnson said it was a matter of trusting in his player's ability to get the job done. "I had a guy hot," Johnson said, referring to his warmed-up reliever in the bullpen, and when (after a visit from Steve McCatty) Detwiler, who'd completed 5.2 scoreless to that point, walked Chris Young on a full-count pitch to load the bases, the Nats' Skipper had a decision to make. "I wasn't happy with the 3-2 pitch to [Young]," Johnson continued, "I was thinking about going [to the pen], and I said, 'No, I'm going to see what he's made of right here. He's going to have to get out of this, it's the only jam he's been in, I'm going to have to see him get out of it,' and he had a low pitch count and made a couple good pitches on [Paul Goldschmidt] and got out of it."
"That was the crunch time for me," Johnson explained, "I wasn't going to let him get into any trouble after that point. It was basically one hitter at a time, I had Henry [Rodriguez] warm to come in." When Detwiler again got in trouble in the seventh, the Nats' manager did go to the bullpen, bringing in Rodriguez, and his often wild 100mph+ heater, who issued a walk to bring the tying run to the plate before inducing an inning-ending groundout with a 100 mph two-seam fastball to now-former D-Backs' infielder Kelly Johnson.
Tuesday night the turning point was Davey Johnson's decision to stick with Jordan Zimmermann when he issued a one-out walk (again to) Chris Young in front of Sean Burroughs, who hit his first HR since 2005 to break up a scoreless tie and lift the D-Backs' to a 2-0 win in what was likely Zimmermann's next-to-last start and last at home. After the walk to Young, Zimmermann was at 107 pitches, tied for the most pitches he's thrown all season. Two pitches later, when he was done for the night, the right-hander had surrendered a two-run HR by Burroughs and a double by pitcher Ian Kennedy before Johnson brought Tyler Clippard on to strike the next two batters out and end the frame in what ended up a 2-0 Nats' loss.
"[Zimmermann] pitched a great ball game," Davey Johnson told reporters after the game and was, "... really cruising. The sixth inning, finished up, he's still throwing hard, was making it look easy. He shouldn't have been out there anyway." You probably, maybe tuned out," Johnson said, after he'd considered hitting for Zimmermann with the pitcher due up after catcher Wilson Ramos with two on and one out, "And then we hit into a double play, so I wanted [Zimmermann] to give me one more inning. I don't know if it's the magic number, I don't think it's the magic number of around a 100 [pitches], but again, I wanted to give him every opportunity to win the ballgame. I figured one more inning, have a chance to score, but it was just a tough one. I mean, we had a couple chances to jump out ahead, we had the right guys up and just didn't get it done."
It wasn't just the desire to see Zimmermann get a win, of course. Johnson also added later in his talk with the press that the 24-year-old right-hander needs to learn how to work out of these situations, and part of that is, "...having the opportunity to do it," and though Johnson also added that Zimmerman had better numbers against lefties than righties, which he doesn't this year or in his career, he did note that Jayson Werth had also suffered an injury the previous inning which kept the manager from making a double switch then in case he had to remove Werth, since he, "... didn't want to weaken my offense too much, where it was going, so there was a lot of little things going on."
Last night, Johnson had a decision to make in the eighth with the Nats down 2-0 and being dominated by another D-Backs' starter. Livan Hernandez, who laughs at pitch counts, entered the inning with 83 pitches on his arm, having allowed just five hits and the two runs to that point. When Hernandez gave up back-to-back one-out singles by Ryan Roberts and Gerardo Parra that put runners on second and third when Laynce Nix's throw in allowed Parra to advance, Livan issued a base-loading intentional walk to Justin Upton. Johnson then turned to Henry Rodriguez, who gave up a two-run single to D-Backs' catcher Miguel Montero on the second pitch he threw.
Johnson, in a brief post game press conference, said he had planned on going to the bullpen after the seventh, but made the decision to stick with Hernandez, who'd been strong, but Johnson had no choice but to issue the free pass to Upton after Laynce Nix's throw on the second single and got the pen then. "I had it in my mind, If he gives me seven, I'm getting him out of there" CSNWashington.com's Mark Zuckerman quotes Johnson saying in his report on the game entitled, "Nationals avoid shutout, but fall to D-backs", "'And I balked. He got in trouble and couldn't get out of it. Like they say, managers lose and players win them, huh?'"
"Now I've got to walk Upton," Johnson continued, "I have no choice, and that's not the ideal situation for Henry [Rodriguez]. So my little balk, and then a little error, now bases loaded and not what I was looking for." Opposing hitters have a .300/.417/.300 slash against Rodriguez with the bases loaded this season, and .286/.412/.286 in his career. Miguel Montero, as Livan Hernandez pointed out to reporters after the game, has also hit well with the bases loaded in his career, 15 for 40, for a .375 AVG over six seasons.
Asked about Johnson's decision to go with Henry Rodriguez, Livan Hernandez told reporters, "It's tough. I [got] one out, the pitcher, and the ground ball in the hole," on the second of two singles, "... it's not too hard and the guy goes to third base and you know, I [did] my job and someone else has to do their job too. I did mine and you give a chance, the bullpen comes in, and Montero's a good hitter with the bases loaded, hitting [.375] with the bases loaded. In that situation what you try to do is hit a fly ball. Cause I've known Montero for a long [time] in my country and Arizona, and he's always been good with the bases loaded and he did it with the bases loaded again today." Rodriguez didn't get a strikeout or a fly ball, surrendering a broken bat two-run single that gave Arizona a 4-0 lead.
Monday night a show of faith in his pitcher panned out. Tuesday it cost the Nationals. Wednesday it was a veteran on the mound, and Johnson's decision to stick with him cost the Nats, who also wasted a lot of runners and scoring opportunities in the two losses. With few runs being scored and tough pitchers throwing against the Nats every decision is magnified. Johnson's 1 for 3 this week.