Washington lost three in-a-row to Atlanta to start the current nine-game homestand, but this weekend they swept Philadelphia in their three-game set. Tuesday night they start a series with San Francisco. In three games with the Braves, the Nationals scored six runs total in 3-2, 2-1 and 6-3 losses in which they had a total of 19 hits. In the three wins over the Phillies, the Nats had 12 hits and nine runs in a 9-2 win, 11 hits and eight runs in an 8-5 series-clincher and 13 hits and six runs in a 6-0 win in Sunday's finale. Stephen Strasburg threw nine scoreless in the third game of three with the Phillies, but his manager didn't get to see him record the final out from the dugout.
Davey Johnson was in with the trainers, having left the dugout with two innings to go in the game for treatment of a back issue that will require what reports from Nats Park Sunday described simply as a "procedure" which isn't expected to cause the 70-year-old skipper to miss any time on the bench.
"When [Strasburg] finished, it was, I think the seventh inning, with 75 pitches or something," Johnson told reporters after the Nats' win, "I said, 'I'm going to go get a hot pack and take something for the little pain and if you guys mess this up, come and get me, I'll come down.'" The veteran manager wasn't alone. Jayson Werth was out of the game and getting treatment as well. "We were in and sharing tables there in the eighth inning. I think he's in worse shape than I am. He had more ice on him than I had heat on me."
Werth went 3 for 4 in Sunday's win and 7 for 12 in the series, leaving him 16 for 28 so far in August. The 34-year-old outfielder drove in the game's first run with a two-out RBI single in the first, then singled to start the fifth and scored on a bases-loaded grounder to second by Wilson Ramos on which Chase Utley tried for the out at home. Utley's throw bounced in front of home and Phillies' catcher Erik Kratz couldn't come up with the ball, allowing Werth to score, then Ian Desmond, who'd singled after Werth, came rushing in as Kratz slowly got around to recovering the baseball. Werth apparently did some damage to his knee sliding into home, though his manager didn't seem too concerned.
"Werth tweaked his, I guess, his right knee, when he slid in at home," Johnson explained. "Dr. Wiemi [Douoghui] was back there. Didn't think it was anything other than a pretty good bruise. He should be good Tuesday."
As for the plays at the plate, the Nats' manager loved the aggressiveness on display. "That was great," he said, "That was heads up. They were kind of napping." Desmond was 6 for 11 with three doubles in the weekend series, leaving the Nats' 27-year-old shortstop with a .277/.333/.471 line, 31 doubles and 16 HRs in 115 games and 473 plate appearances so far in 2013.
"I like the way Desi, when Desi's getting out in front more of fastballs on the inside part of the plate," Johnson said, "instead of being late, that's when he's the most dangerous. And he sometimes gets into looking for offspeed stuff and balls away and gets late beat here, so I love to see him hit balls foul down the left field line. And that makes pitchers not come after him as much and he'll get more walks, he'll get more hits. It makes it easier."
Desmond and Werth weren't the only ones hitting. To go along with Strasburg's complete game, Denard Span was 2 for 5 at the top of the order. Wilson Ramos was 2 for 4. Steve Lombardozzi was 3 for 4. The Nationals' sweep of the Phillies' was their first series sweep of their NL East rivals in the nation's capital.
"The way we beat them was good pitching and good hitting," Johnson told reporters, "And we haven't been able to get the combination together. But I think that everybody in the lineup swinging the bats, that's the key and of course, great pitching. I mean, [Strasburg] looked pretty good. You're never as good as you look when you win and you're never as bad as you look when you lose and we've been looking pretty bad here lately. So that was -- we just need to keep it going and it ain't over till it's over."
"I sense that we're, overall as a team, we're a little more aggressive," Johnson continued, "From top-to-bottom and that's always been the key I think here. And the guy that's most aggressive, any time in the count now, and prides himself on taking a lot of pitches, is Jayson Werth. I mean, he's hit first pitches and smoked them, but he's been kind of a shining example of how we need to hit."