Davey Johnson wasn't backing away from his opinion that it's still "World Series or Bust!" for his Washington Nationals when he talked to the MLB Network's Brian Kenny and Harold Reynolds yesterday on "MLB Now."
"I expect us to be in the playoffs," the Nats' 70-year-old skipper said of the 42-41 Nationals, who lost to the Milwaukee Brewers a few hours after the interview was conducted. "Before we won it last year, I said if guys just played to their potential, we could win our division. We certainly did that and then some. I think I feel the same way. I know I feel the same way this year. If we do all the things with the experience we had last year in the playoffs, even though it wasn’t a good one because we lost that Game Five to the Cardinals, I believe with that playoff experience, we can go a lot further."
Asked to explain the slow start to the defense of the Nationals' NL East crown, Johnson said it's been a case of the offense failing to click early much like it struggled in the first half of 2012. "We came out of the shoot last year real slow offensively," Johnson told the MLB Network hosts, "but the pitching from top to bottom, bullpen and starters, was more consistent early. Then when we got a little healthier, kind of towards two months into the season, the offense picked up.
"Last year, I think we averaged like 4.5 runs per game and this year we’ve been way down. We’re closer to averaging three runs a game. Basically, the young guys last year pretty much carried us. [Bryce] Harper came up when [Jayson] Werth went down. [Michael] Morse was out the whole first half. Tyler Moore and [Steve] Lombardozzi jumped on the scene and played very well. This year, it’s been a different story. The young guys have struggled and some of the veterans have also been down too, so it’s tougher."
Johnson remains confident in his team's chances, however. "I think everybody that clubhouse feels that we're in a perfect spot right now," Johnson said. "Sometimes when you come into a season, everybody picks you to win everything, for a young ballclub sometimes, that's hard, it puts additional pressure on them. I think getting bounced around, getting beat up on a bunch of times has been healthy for us. I think things happen for the best and I think we're ready to rock 'n roll in the second half."