It's putting me in the looney bin," Washington Nationals' manager Davey Johnson told reporters Wednesday night after another lackluster offensive performance in a 4-1 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers and right-hander Kyle Lohse in which the Nats managed just five hits. "It looks like we're getting good at bats," the 70-year-old manager said, "we're just not getting it done. I don't really have any answers." He told reporters Thursday morning that one potential solution came to him later last night. He called one of the players who would move in the reconfigured lineup and informed him of the move he intended to make.
When the Nationals' lineup for the finale of their four-game set with the Brewers was released, the rest of the world saw what Johnson had in mind. Ian Desmond in the two-hole. Jayson Werth batting sixth. Why did he make the move to switch out Werth, whose OBP skills made him an ideal top of the order hitter in Johnson's mind, as he explained earlier this season and again earlier this week when Bryce Harper returned from the DL? "I don’t know," the Nats' skipper said, "Because I’m supposed to do something."
He was willing to try just about anything, joking in the post game press conference following the Nats' 8-5 win which saw Desmond go 3 for 4 with a walk and a run scored while Werth was 3 for 3 with a walk and two runs scored, that he thought maybe even an ejection might be in order to light a spark. "I was tempted to try to get thrown out today," Johnson said, "just for old time's sake or something."
Johnson didn't get himself ejected, but his moves worked out this afternoon and as he explained later, he had other things in mind with the Desmond/Werth swap as well, as much as he tried to say he was just "doing something."
"I like Desmond's energy to go along with Harper's energy," Johnson said of today's two and three-hole hitters. "Desi likes to run. Those are the reasons. Aggressiveness and I had to do something."
So was he pleased with the results? "Yeah, that came out all right," the manager deadpanned after the game when asked about the decision. "You know, once in a while I have a great idea. But [Desmond and Werth] both had great ballgames."
So did Wilson Ramos, who returned to the majors after a long DL stint with a hamstring injury and went 3 for 4 with a three-run home run in the seventh and five RBIs.
All of a sudden, with something close to the team the Nationals imagined fielding this season finally available, the Nationals' lineup looks like one long day for opposing pitchers. A night after they struggled to connect with anything Kyle Lohse threw, the Nats racked up 11 hits, scored eight runs and even stole four bases.
"The guy was was very deliberate early on," Johnson said, by way of explaining the stolen bases off the Brewers' Donovan Hand. "Hand was like 1.5 and we have all these gadgets that we check the times and so we're going to go and then he even made it worse when he threw the slow curve ball."
As for the offense? The Nationals' manager said it definitely had a lot to do with finally having the lineup they built for this season (with Anthony Rendon instead of Danny Espinosa of course) on the field and hitting together.
"This is basically the first time in a long time -- I don't know, early April -- we had our whole lineup in there," Johnson explained, "And I like the lineup, but it's all about each individual going and having quality at bats and we've got a couple guys still that aren't doing the things that they're capable of doing, two or three guys that I know will do it, and usually a couple months into the season everybody is usually doing their thing, but we've had spells where everybody goes bad, but more and more the guys are expressing their talent and that's what is important to getting on a run."