Davey Johnson left the bench in the seventh inning of the final game of the season this past Wednesday with a nerve issue in his back caused by inflammation and swelling which had caused him to lose feeling in his left leg. "I'm okay," the Washington Nationals' 69-year-old manager assured reporters, "There's nothing wrong with me." The Nats' skipper explained the situation and shared the diagnosis he'd received from team doctor Dr. Wiemi Douoguih. In explaining his decision to leave his bench, Johnson said simply, "I just didn't want to embarrass myself if my leg gave out. I didn't feel that was a good idea."
The manager of the NL East Division champs didn't think it would cause him to alter his travel plans or his affect his ability to guide the team. Due to the health issue, he wasn't around when Edwin Jackson's 31st start of the season ended after 6.2 innings or work in which E-Jax had allowed six hits, a walk and one earned run.
Jackson threw 97 pitches in his final start of the year. The 29-year-old veteran of 10 seasons in the majors with the Dodgers, Rays, Tigers, D-Backs, White Sox, Cards and Nats completed the regular season with a (10-11) record, a 4.03 ERA (which started the month of September as a 3.53 ERA), a 3.85 FIP, 58 walks (2.75 BB/9) and 168 Ks (7.97 K/9) in 189.2 IP. D.C. GM Mike Rizzo, who signed E-Jax to a 1-year/$11M dollar deal last winter, told MASN's Johnny Holliday in a regular-season-ending interview that the investment in the right-handed free agent had payed dividends.
"After the Gio Gonzalez trade and the acquisition of Edwin Jackson," Rizzo said, "We really liked where we were. We knew we had our rotation in order. We knew that if our young players were going to take the next step in their progressions, the Desmonds, the Espinosas and those type of guys, that we were going to be a dangerous team that could compete for the National League East title. So we felt good about ourselves. We constructed the roster with playoff baseball in mind and we're happy to see it came to fruition."
Edwin Jackson struggled down the stretch with a string of starts in September that saw him post a 7.92 ERA over five outings and 25.0 IP in starts against the Cubs, Marlins, Braves, Brewers and Cards in which he was (1-2) with the Nationals 1-4. The start against St. Louis was particularly troubling heading into the postseason. Jackson gave up six hits and nine runs, eight earned and threw 56 pitches in just 1.1 IP, but the right-hander bounced back to end the season on a good note and impress his manager, though Johnson wasn't around to make the decision to lift the pitcher with two down in the seventh.
Johnson liked what he saw from E-Jax, however, telling reporters after the game, "That's him. That's vintage Edwin Jackson. Great breaking ball. Live fastball. He was breezing and he mentioned to [Pitching Coach Steve McCatty] just before we went out in the seventh that he was tiring or something. That's right at the point that I went in [to the clubhouse]. I told 'Cat' well, 'Get a couple guys up. [Sean Burnett] would be a good candidate for the eighth. I said, 'Get whoever is the freshest up,' and then I departed and [E-Jax] was in there with me a short time later. But a great outing. Good win."
The win by the Nats gave Jackson his 10th favorable decision of the year, and gave the Nationals five pitchers with double digit wins for the first time in franchise history since the 1979 Montreal Expos did it with Bill "Spaceman" Lee (16), Steve Rogers (13), Ross Grimsley (10), Rudy May (10), David Palmer (10) and Dan Schatzeder (10) all collecting double-digit wins, though only two of the five Expos' arms won the 10 games as starters. As important as getting Jackson to ten wins in Davey Johnson's mind, however, was having the pitcher end the year on a high note after a rough final month.
"You want to finish feeling good," Johnson said, "And that was definitely a feel-good finish. Getting to ten wins, we all wanted him to get there. He's certainly pitched better to have fifteen wins, as good as he's pitched." Jackson got that final win, had a strong outing, the Nats won the regular season finale, clinched the NL's best record and tied the season series with their NL East rivals from Philadelphia. Jackson and the Nats ended the season on a positive note with the 5-1 win in game one 162 of 162. All good, right? Now on to the...
"The only little negative coming out of the game," Davey Johnson told reporters, interrupting the end of the year revelry, if only momentarily, "... was that [Michael] Morse kind of... it was a spasm in his hammy. On the home run." The Nats' 30-year-old outfield had hit his 18th home run of the year off Phillies' closer Jonathan Papelbon to make a 3-1 game a 5-1 game and put it pretty much out of reach in the top of the ninth. It was just the fourth home run by a right-hander off Philly's closer this season.
Morse ended the game 3 for 4 with two doubles (17 total) and the home run (his 18th), lifting his 2012 season line to .291/.321/.470 after 102 games and 403 PAs over which he was worth +0.4 fWAR in an injury-shortened campaign that started late because of a lat issue and had him miss time with a bone bruise and torn sheath in his wrist. Not exactly the way the 30-year-old outfielder who signed a 2-year/$10M extension this winter expected the year to go after a breakout .303/.360/.550 2011 season in which he hit 36 doubles and 31 HRs while finishing at a career-high +3.3 fWAR.
"Hopefully it was just a spasm, not any kind of slight pull," Davey Johnson said, but he didn't seem too concerned about the hamstring being an issue for Morse, telling reporters, "He was in on the table while I was coming out of the x-ray room and he [was] getting all of the electrodes on there stimulating. Hopefully it was just a spasm. I'll know more about that. Might be a first in here if somebody pulled a hamstring on a home run."
Hopefully it's not a big issue. The Nationals are going to need their big middle-of-the-order bat when they open the post season on Sunday afternoon at 3:07 pm EDT. MLB just announced the start time for the first game of the NLDS:
Times for the first two NLDS games have been announced: Game 1 (Sun.): #Nationals at STL/ATL, 3:07 ET. Game 2 (Mon.): 4:37 ET— Nationals PR (@NationalsPR) October 5, 2012