• Familiarity: When the Washington Nationals roughed former Nats' starter Livan Hernandez up earlier this year, scoring six runs on five hits in just 0.2 IP, Nats' skipper Davey Johnson talked about the advantage the veteran right-hander's former teammates had in facing a pitcher they'd played behind for so long. Ian Desmond, who played short behind Hernandez for several seasons while the pitcher was in D.C., accounted for three of those six runs when he took the Brewers' reliever deep on a three-run home run.
"I'm sure Desi knew every sequence that was coming," Johnson told reporters, "Slow hook, high fastball, slider, when he's coming in. I told [former Orioles' teammate Jim] Palmer that, I said, 'I know how you pitch. I'm going to wear you out,' and the first time I faced him in Spring Training I hit one over the light tower in New Orleans. And Darold Knowles. You just know. Darold Knowles was similar to Livo, all kinds of tricky pitches, setting up different pitches. It's a great advantage to play behind a pitcher."
Edwin Jackson, acquired by the Cards in a July 2011 trade, made 12 regular season starts and four postseason appearances with St. Louis last season as they battled their way to a World Series win. Jackson has only made seven appearances against the Cardinals in his 10-year-career, six of them as a starter, but two of the six starts have come in the last two months of the season, so St. Louis is certainly familiar with the pitcher they're going to face in Game Three of the NLDS this afternoon.
"I always think it's an advantage," the Nats' skipper said this morning, "Whenever I played behind pitchers when I got traded, I knew what they threw and I knew how they liked to work, in or out. So I think it's a good advantage to know and play behind a pitcher, but good pitching shuts down good hitting. If you make your pitches and do the things you're capable of doing, you're fine."
"It's when you try to do too much," Johnson continued, "Try to get too fine and get behind, especially [against] experienced hitters. Just go right after them, be aggressive, make [your] pitches."
The Nats' manager described Edwin Jackson's opponent on the mound, 37-year-old, 15-year-veteran Chris Carpenter as a "big game pitcher," but explained that he'd prepared the Nats for what they'll see from the right-hander. "The thing that we told our hitters," Johnson said, "Is he likes to pound the strike zone with both pitches, and then when he gets ahead he likes to start it in the strike zone and have you chase it out of the zone, so we just need to be patient."
• Home Field: Davey Johnson told reporters this morning that the Nats were happy to be back home in the nation's capital where they were 50-31 this season. "This is home," Johnson said, "The guys are comfortable here, they're comfortable in the clubhouse. The guys come early here and it's a very familiar surrounding and background. They should perform better here at home, but I'm proud of this club, we performed well on the road and that hasn't been the history here. But it's always good to be home. Our fans as the year has progressed, have gotten more active, more involved. It's a nice place to play. It's a beautiful ballpark. Nothing but fun here."
• Frank Robinson: Former Nats and Expos manager Frank Robinson is throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before this afternoon's game. The Hall of Famer is also a former teammate of Davey Johnson's from 1966-71 and in the current Nationals' manager's opinion, Robinson is, "... one of the greatest players that I've ever been associated with." Johnson told reporters this morning that whenever he thinks of Robinson, he remembers the first time he saw him. "He came into Spring Training," Johnson said, "And we had a game going on and [Earl] Weaver said to [Robinson], 'Do you want an at bat?' and he said, 'Yeah,' and so he went and to his uni on went up to pinch hit and he hadn't had batting practice or nothing and Dick Hall was pitching, I remember it like it was yesterday, [Robinson] hit one out of the ballpark."
Johnson and his teammates turned to one another and said, "We've got something here," the manager recalled, "And of course he went on to win the Triple Crown."
Montreal Expos fans and those in D.C. who were following the Nationals in their first two seasons in D.C. know what they had here and how important Frank Robinson was to the history of this franchise. Everyone in the nation's capital will get a chance to show their appreciation for his contributions today.