PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 24: Ryan Zimmerman #11 of the Washington Nationals is treated by a trainer after being hit with a pitch in the first inning of the game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on August 24, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images)
When Braves' right-hander Kris Medlen was done with his seven scoreless innings of work on the mound against the Nationals this past Wednesday in Atlanta's 5-1 win over Washington, the 26-year-old starter had a streak of 21.0 scoreless innings going strong. The Nats broke up Philadelphia Phillies' right-hander Kyle Kendrick's scoreless inning streak at 21.0 when Tyler Moore hit a two-run home run in the top of the seventh inning in last night's loss. The Nationals were in both games, but suffered losses both times. "We played hard," Davey Johnson told reporters after the loss to the Braves in which the Nationals were 2 for 8 with RISP and loaded the bases with one down in the seventh inning of what was a 2-0 game and failed to score. "That young man [Medlen] pitched a heck of a ballgame against us," Johnson said, "We had the right people up at the right time and didn't get it done."
The Nats' skipper said the same after last night's game in Philadelphia which saw the Nationals drop two in-a-row for just the second time since July 21st. The Nationals had their chances last night, but they were down two important players after Ian Desmond was a late scratch with a hamstring strain and Michael Morse went down following a HBP on his right hand. The absence of the two, Davey Johnson said, "Changes the game a little bit, but [we] had the right guys up at the right time and just didn't get it done. So, tomorrow's another day."
The injuries to Desmond and Morse were just the latest for a team that's overcome injuries all season. Both players have already missed significant time with Desmond dealing with an oblique issue and Morse a lat injury that delayed the start of his 2012 campaign until June 2nd. Morse had an MRI last night after the HBP. "X-rays were negative," the manager told reporters after the game, "He's got a bad bruise, but hopefully he'll be alright in a few short days." As for Desmond, who appeared to injure his knee/hamstring late in last Wednesday's game with Atlanta, he was scratched with what was originally described as a "sore right knee," but after the game, Johnson said it was a hamstring issue that was bothering the Nats' shortstop.
"The pain is a little bit up his hamstring," Johnson said, "And so I wasn't going to use him to pinch hit, I didn't want him to aggravate that and have a bigger problem." The Nationals had called it a "sore knee" but Johnson updated that diagnosis after the game, explaining, "I think he subluxed it, or hyperextended it or whatever you want to call it and stretched the hammy a little bit, but with the off day [Thursday] and probably the whole weekend, hopefully he'll be alright. We'll just have to go day-by-day."
Even after the back-to-back losses, the Nationals hold a 6.5 game lead over the Braves in the NL East. Atlanta has also lost two straight in San Francisco. When Johnson, who has been on the record since this past winter saying he thought the Nats could win the NL East this season was asked recently if he was surprised that the Nats are in the the position they find themselves in right now atop the division, he reminded reporters that he'd seen the team's success coming as far back as last August, but what has surprised him, he explained, is that the Nationals have managed to do it in spite of the injuries they've dealt with all season.
"The surprising thing is more, with the devastating injuries to your closer, your four-hole hitter -- arguably your best hitter last year -- losing your right fielder, losing your catcher, losing [Ryan Zimmerman] down, that the young crew [Steve] Lombardozzi, [Bryce] Harper, Tyler Moore have really done a heck of a job, real rapidly in holding us in there and that's the strength of the organization." The Nationals will have to call on that strength again this weekend in Philadelphia as they're likely to be without Morse and Desmond for the remainder of the series. They've done it before, can the Nats continue to overcome their injury issues?