Davey Johnson was impressed with Los Angeles Dodgers' left-hander Clayton Kershaw's 8.2 scoreless innings of work last night in Dodger Stadium. The 25-year-old starter gave up just five hits, two of them in the first inning when Washington loaded the bases but failed to score, and struck out 11 in the win, but the Nationals' manager said late last night/early this morning that he was equally impressed by Nats' starter Dan Haren's effort.
The 32-year-old right-hander gave up two runs after a HBP and one and two-out singles in the third, then proceeded to retire 13-straight Dodgers' batters before he left the game after 7.0 innings of work in which he gave up just four hits total.
"[Kershaw] pitched a heck of a ballgame," Johnson told reporters after the loss, "My guy pitched just as good as he did. Dan Haren pitched a heck of a ballgame."
The only runs LA scored came on Andre Ethier's two-out, third inning single.
Haren hit the opposing pitcher to start the Dodgers' third, gave up a single by Matt Kemp one out later and had a wild pitch move both runners into scoring position for Andre Ethier. Ethier entered last night's game with a .426/.449/.660 line, (20 for 47) vs Haren, but with first base open, the Nationals still pitched to him and he singled to center to drive in the only two runs scored in the game.
"I know everybody's going to ask me why I didn't walk Ethier," Johnson said, answering the question before anyone actually asked.
"Again," the Nats' manager said, "A veteran pitcher out there, I've got a base open and I know that if he makes his pitches he's not going to give him anything to hit. It's going to be out of the zone and if he gets behind, I'll put him on, but I don't like to put him in a situation where he definitely [has] to throw a strike to a hitter. But other than that it was a great ballgame. I think that was the only mistake he made. He just threw him a fastball out over the plate. But it was a tough game to lose, because my guy pitched just as well as Kershaw did."
Though Haren shut the Dodgers down after the third, the Nationals' offense was off-balance all night. Danny Espinosa, who led off in the second game in LA, was 0 for 4 with three Ks. Tyler Moore was 0 for 4 with two Ks, including a first inning strikeout that left the bases loaded the one time the Nats had the Dodgers' starter in trouble. Ryan Zimmerman went 3 for 4 and Ian Desmond and Adam LaRoche connected for hits, but Kershaw dominated the rest of the lineup.
"They're an aggressive team," Kershaw told reporters after the game, "And sometimes once I got ahead I was able to throw some pitches out of the strike zone that they chased. And towards the end of the game they started swinging a little bit earlier, putting the ball in play. So, it was probably a combination of approach, and, I don't know, what I was doing I guess."
"There's a few guys on the ballclub that are not doing the things they are capable of doing," Davey Johnson admitted when asked about the offensive issues. "They've been kind of struggling off and on all year and we just haven't righted the ship yet. That's been an issue. There's progress, the middle of the lineup is doing a lot of good things, but some of the other guys are not doing the things they're capable of doing."
Asked specifically about Espinosa and Moore, Johnson admitted that they were both scuffling. "Danny's best side is right-handed," the Nats' skipper said, "And [Kershaw] made some good pitches, but he had some pitches to hit and I think he's just trying to do too much. Tyler Moore is kind of a little bit in a funk. He has been kind of all year. He hasn't been himself. [I'm] trying to get him some more at bats and get him in a groove, but it's been slow going."
The approach with the struggling hitters, Johnson said, is to take it day-by-day. "I have a lot of confidence in the abilities of these guys that are struggling. It's very difficult for a youngster that's used to playing every day to come in and part-time play and do the job, but we'll get it there."
Asked again about Espinosa, and how much longer he'd go with him before trying someone else at second, Johnson declined to comment.