Denard Span doubled to center with two down in the second to bring Adam LaRoche around from first and make it 1-0 Washington early in the series finale with Miami, but in spite of the fact that the Nationals' hitters had eight hits off Marlins' starter Henderson Alvarez through six innings they scored just that one run. Davey Johnson liked what he saw from his reconfigured lineup, however, in the last game of the so-called "first-half" of the 2013 campaign. "We got a bunch of hits and didn't score many runs," Johnson said, "but we hit a bunch of balls hard and I liked the way it felt. Everybody seemed to have a little bit of energy in the new lineup. We'll probably stick with it for a while."
Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon were a combined 3 for 10 at the top of the order. Jayson Werth went 2 for 5 hitting fifth. Ian Desmond, back in the six-hole, was 2 for 5. Denard Span was 3 for 5 with two RBI doubles. It took them 10 innings to do it, but the Nationals salvaged the third game of three in Marlins Park and went into the break a game above .500 at 48-47 after dropping three of four in Philadelphia and the first two of three in Miami.
"It's big," Johnson said afterwards, "With [Stephen Strasburg] going two innings on the first day, my bullpen was kind of beat up. And the extra inning game yesterday and today, I mean, it was tough, but great character on this ballclub. I told them, 'Be safe, we've got a lot of work to do in the second half, and just enjoy your break. But we've got some work.'"
With the Nats' win and the Braves' loss to the Reds, the Nationals went into the All-Star Break 6.0 games behind Atlanta in the NL East and 5.0 games out in the Wild Card Race. Asked about the hard work that lies ahead in the second half if the Nationals want to catch the Braves and move up in the Wild Card race, Johnson said, "It is what it is, but I like what I saw today, and I mean, I like this ballclub. We've had a few hiccups with injuries and whatever, but I think we're in good shape going into the second half. We're an awfully good ballclub, and we just need to play like it. And the offense today -- the way everybody in the lineup swung the bat -- that was huge for us."
The Nationals' 70-year-old skipper said he thought the team reacted well to the moves he made, which he had thought about making after the break before moving the timetable up a week. "I was going to shake the lineup up," Johnson explained, "because this, the way this is configured it's tougher to pitch to our left-handers. You've got to go through a couple of good right-hand hitters and that's the reason you set it up that way."
An added benefit? "Everybody seems to like hitting in those spots better than in the spots I had them," Johnson told reporters today, "So, my mistake."
Johnson plans to stick with the new-look lineup when the Nationals get back into action after the break. "It was something I was going to lean toward in the second half," he said, "but it looked pretty good today and I think guys were really happy with it."
The Nats' new lineup produced two runs in nine innings, then added three more in the top of the tenth. Jayson Werth singled with one out in the first extra frame, but was forced out at second on an Ian Desmond grounder. Denard Span's second two-out RBI double of the game brought Desmond around to put the Nationals ahead and Wilson Ramos and Chad Tracy singled and doubled, respectively, to put Washington ahead 5-2. Rafael Soriano earned his 25th save of the season in the bottom of the inningand the "first-half" ended with the Nationals in second in the NL East.