"Sacrifice means you are giving up something. In this instance, you’re giving up an out to the opposition." - Earl Weaver
Davey Johnson doesn't like to bunt. He said so Sunday night after the Washington Nationals' 3-2 comeback win over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game One of the 2012 NLDS. "I don't like to bunt," Johnson said, "I'm coming from the old Earl Weaver school, 'Let's keep swinging.' Don't like to steal that much either. I don't like to give up outs. But that was a situation where I felt like if I get the winning run in scoring position... and Danny [Espinosa] did a heck of job, perfect bunt." The situation had runners on the corners with no one out in a game the Cardinals led 2-1 in the top of the eighth.
The Nats' 69-year-old skipper was going through his thought process in the eighth inning with reporters after the game. He had watched his second baseman strike out three times in three at bats before the Nats' 25-year-old '08 3rd Round pick stepped in with runners on first and third in the eighth after Michael Morse had reached on an error by Cards' shortstop Pete Kozma and gone first-to-third on a single by Ian Desmond, who was 3 for 4 after the hit in the first postseason game of his career. Davey Johnson didn't like Michael Morse's speed at third though.
"Actually," Johnson explained, "I thought about running Edwin Jackson at third [for Morse], but I didn't want to put Edwin in that situation where there was a bang-bang play at home and lose my third game starter." Jackson's scheduled to start Game Three of the NLDS in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday night in the first postseason game in the nation's capital in seventy-nine years. It was too much of a risk. "But he was ready," Johnson said, "and I [was] just hoping that once we got [Desmond] over there [to second] that somebody would get a hit and we would go ahead."
Kurt Suzuki got an opportunity to be that "somebody" the Nationals' manager was looking for, but the catcher who drove in the only run the Nats had at that point K'd swinging at a 2-2 fastball from Cardinals' reliever Mitchell Boggs for the second out of Washington's eighth. Davey Johnson sent Chad Tracy out to the plate, then countered with 25-year-old rookie slugger Tyler Moore when Cards' manager Mike Matheny went to the pen for left hander Marc Rzepczyinski. Moore fouled of a 2-1 sinker from Rzepczyinski then singled to right on a 93 mph 2-2 four-seamer, going out and getting it and shooting an opposite field single over second that drove in two runs and made it 3-2 Nationals.
"[Rzepzcynski] came in," Moore told reporters, "I know he's got a good sinker. Just wanted to stay on the ball as much as possible, try not to do too much and the [2-1 pitch] I swung out of the zone a little bit and wanted to make sure I got a ball in my zone a little more and was able to kind of flare it out to right."
"I actually did not think that Mike [Matheny] was going to take out Boggs," Johnson said, "But I told Tracy when he went up there, 'If [Matheny] brings in Razinksy or whatever his name is, I'm hitting Moore.' And he did and so I hit Moore. I'd rather have the veteran player in that situation rather than the rookie, but rookies have been [successful] all year, I mean they've been doing a heck of a job and Moore's got some big hits for us and he did again tonight." As a pinch hitter this year, Moore was 6 for 29 with two doubles and two home runs in the regular season.
On the year, as a part time player in the outfield after playing just four games as an outfielder in five minor league seasons before he debuted this season, Moore posted a .263/.327/.513 line overall with nine doubles and 10 home runs in 75 games and 171 plate appearances after back-to-back 31 HR seasons in the Nationals' system in 2010-11. "He's been fabulous," Davey Johnson said, "I mean him, [Bryce] Harper, [Steve] Lombardozzi. Moore was always a first baseman and when Morse went down I had to play him in the outfield. And actually, when Lombo had a little problem hitting right-handed it made it easy for me to kind of platoon them."
"And Moore did a heck of a job," Johnson continued, "I mean, he won us some ballgames with his bat and played good defense. Both of them did. And that was the strength that held us in with the injury to Morse and [Jayson] Werth. Those guys [Lombardozzi and Moore] and then Harper, those guys were great, that's been our strength."
Davey Johnson was asked if he was concerned that going with Moore against Rzepczynski with first base open might lead the Cards to put Moore on and bring on Jason Motte to face Jayson Werth, but he said he was comfortable going whatever direction he had to at that point. "I thought that I had the upper hand, because I was going to control the matchup no matter what it was," Johnson said, "If he brings Motte in he's going to face my best pinch hitter in Tracy. I'm comfortable with that." The Cardinals went with Rzepczynski, Davey went with Moore and the rookie outfielder collected his first postseason hit in his first NLDS AB.