It was a long day for Davey Johnson in Washington, D.C. on Sunday. It started with a ceremony to honor the 70-year-old skipper's contributions to baseball in the nation's capital and ended with a walk-off win in the second game of a doubleheader with the Miami Marlins in Nationals Park that wrapped up the home-half of the Nats' 2013 schedule. As he sat down to meet with the D.C.-based press for the last time as manager of the Nationals, he admitted that it wasn't a day he had necessarily been looking forward to, preferring to, "stay away from those emotions," as he told reporters when talking about the video tribute and personal messages former teammates and his current players delivered that afternoon.
"I was kind of dreading it," Johnson said, "and then it was very pleasant. I was very moved by ownership and front office and fans and the players. I don't usually think back and I was thinking back on a million experiences, you know, starting back in [Tinker Field], neighbor Joe Haynes, he liked me, thought I had some talent, took me to the ballpark and I ended up managing the team he was playing for and I made it to the top and now I'm going out to pasture. So, it was fun. But, I don't usually go that far back, so, it kind of wore me out."
As did the doubleheader with Miami, which saw the Nationals lose the first game in a devastating blow to their already slim chances of making a return to the postseason before coming back to win in dramatic fashion in the home finale.
Asked about his pitcher's performance in the second of the two games, Johnson was somewhat brutally honest in his assessment of Stephen Strasburg's outing coming off a long layoff while the right-hander waited for "right forearm stiffness" to go away. "He was actually awful," Johnson said. "He was. I mean, every pitch he threw was up. He's got such great stuff, but everything was belt-high. I grew to love him when he pitched for me in the Olympics in Beijing. He's a pitcher. He has command. Everything is right on the knees.
"Everything tonight, sometimes it's more like even the curve ball was belt-high. Fastball stayed... was up all night. It was not typical Stephen. He had 12 days, didn't pitch, but he's got such good stuff. When he gets the mindset that all he has to do is go after them and make his pitches and locate them, it doesn't matter how fast they are or whatever, he's going to be real dominant. But that wasn't vintage Strasburg tonight, for me." Strasburg gave up six hits, two walks and three runs and threw 109 pitches in six innings of work, but received no decision in the Nats' win.
"I really wanted to win that game for him," Johnson said. "Get him to .500, but it wasn't meant to be."
The Nationals finished their home schedule 47-34. They head out on the road now for a six-game, season-ending road trip to St. Louis and Arizona. The split in Sunday's doubleheader left the Nats 84-72 overall, five games back in the race for the second Wild Card spot with six games left. Still, Johnson wasn't ready to concede that the Nationals' run at a second straight postseason appearance is over. He did, however, say that the end of the season had snuck up on him.
"This season went like that," Johnson said, snapping his fingers. "Last season went like that."
"We ain't finished," he continued. "I take nothing for granted. I still think we've got a good shot. We need to win them all, but we do... hey, I've been two runs down, one strike away and we've come back. So, don't lose the faith."
With that he walked off the dais for the last time in Nationals Park...
• AUDIO: Nats Nightly w/ Dave Nichols from the District Sports Page and FBB's Doghouse:
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