WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 18: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals dives back into first base during the game against the Baltimore Orioles at Nationals Park on May 18, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
The majority of yesterday's pre-game press conference saw Washington Nationals' manager Davey Johnson reminiscing about his Baltimore Orioles past. The 69-year-old skipper also talked about the current Orioles club, telling a reporter who asked about Adam Jones that he saw the O's center fielder as a five-tool player. "Great looking young player," the Nats' manager said of the 26-year-old Seattle Mariners' '03 1st Round pick acquired by Baltimore as part of a 5-for-1 February '08 trade that sent Erik Bedard out west. "Five-tool player, does everything well," Johnson continued, "He's exciting. I think that was a great trade they made. I really thought in the time that I was there, I thought [former O's GM] Pat Gillick did a great job stocking the minor league system, but they didn't seem to pan out. But I really like the fact that, when I was there we always took pride in having a great farm system, that was the big thing when I grew up in the Orioles organization. I mean, there was always somebody coming along pushing you, and it looks like that's what they're developing over in Baltimore now, which is a great thing."
Adam Jones was 2 for 5 last night, improving to .299/.347/.598 with eight doubles and 13 HR's on the season. O's right fielder Nick Markakis was 2 for 5 too, with the game-winning HR in the 11th. As far as the Nats' skipper said after the game, however, it was the Nationals' failure to execute that cost them last night, and as he said, squandered another strong outing by right-handed starter Edwin Jackson. "That was a tough one," Johnson said as he sat down at the podium following the 2-1 extra innings loss in which E-Jax gave up five hits and one run while striking out eight batters in eight innings, "That was a shame to waste such a great pitching effort by Jackson, he pitched outstanding."
The Nationals had the leadoff runner on in the second, when Bryce Harper singled, took second on an error and third on a fly to center by Danny Espinosa, but Rick Ankiel K'd swinging with Harper 90ft from home and Jesus Flores flew to right to strand Harper at third. In the fourth, the Nats' 19-year-old rookie walked but was thrown out trying to steal second with Ian Desmond up. Flores singled with one down in the fifth, but was thrown out at second on a botched hit and run attempt with E-Jax at the plate. Harper singled to start the seventh, but Danny Espinosa K'd trying to bunt with two strikes and Ankiel and Flores both followed with pop outs. The 10th and 11th innings both started with runners reaching via HBP, but neither runner got past first. In a one-run game, the Nats went 0 for 6 w/ RISP and left six runners on.
"Through nine innings or so, I think we hit one ball hard," Davey Johnson explained, "We had chances, we just... our inability to get a bunt down and bunting bad pitches, you know, I mean a game like that is frustrating. We don't have to try to force the execution of a bunt. But, that was a tough one." Asked if his patience was running out while waiting for the offense to produce consistently, the Nationals' manager said, "I know the talent, and I know when you're missing some key guys it puts more pressure on other guys to be more agressive and [produce more runs], but we need to have patience when we get in those situations and I certainly see the ability there. They threw some good pitches at us, and made good pitches, but a lot of times we got ourselves out being overly aggressive."
"Hitters get frustrated, wanting to make something happen," Johnson continued, "not staying within themselves, it's more common with younger players, but you see it in more veteran-types too at times, but it's what we need to overcome."
The Nationals could have one of their key missing players back a little sooner than expected. In yesterday's pre-game press conference, the Nats' manager told reporters that Michael Morse will be going to Viera, Florida on Monday as he continues to rehab the lat injury that's kept him out of action so far this season. "I know he's chomping at the bit," Johnson said, "I was going through the training room today, he was bouncing a basketball. He's looking for something they'll let him do. But I think he's going to start playing in games fairly early, getting a lot of bats fairly early. I know today he was allowed to hit off the tee, so [if] he passes that test by Sunday, and I know he's in a throwing program, he's been shagging in the outfield here, I think he can probably can make his schedule when we come off the road trip and be real close."
Johnson said he wasn't sure that Morse would need a rehab assignment in the minors before returning, explaining that down in Florida, "... you really control his playing time and it doesn't really mess up the A, Double-A or Triple-A team. But I would say once he can swing and throw from the outfield, I think very shortly after that he can go anywhere and play. Certainly DH and play left field."
Jayson Werth's name also came up in the conversation yesterday, with Davey Johnson explaining all he's been doing recently is, "... pestering me."
"He's just being Jayson," the manager said. "He seems to be in great spirits. He was helping me manage the last few days, but that's Jayson. He feels very good about the fact that that doctor got the metal plate in there real quick and he's going to be back three weeks early. So that keeps him in a good frame of mind. He can't wait to get back."