Saturday morning, after the Washington Nationals beat the Philadelphia Phillies Friday night on a Ryan Zimmerman walk-off grand slam in the first of the Nats and Phils three-game series in
Citizens Bank Sou Nationals Park, D.C. skipper Davey Johnson told reporters he's, "... talked to a lot of baseball people around, and they look at [the Nationals] as an up-and-coming young ballclub just like I do, and I think we're still very young, we still make a lot of young mistakes, but by and large we're not initimidated by the Phillies or the Braves or anybody. It's always nice to express your talent against the best team in the league and definitely the Phillies are the cream of the crop."
When the 68-year-old manager and former major leaguer entered the Nats' press room following Sunday's bases loaded walk-off HBP, the first words out of this mouth as he sat down were, "That was fun." The first question he was asked was whether or not taking two of three from MLB's best was a confidence boost for the up-and-coming-Nats? "Any time you can beat what I consider probably the best team in baseball it's a plus," Johnson said, "There were a lot of good things we did, and we learned a lot. It's a fine ballclub out there, and we had them on the ropes a couple times, they had us on the ropes, we came back. There's no give-up in this ballclub and it's always fun to beat the best."
• More quotes from Davey Johnson's post game press conference...
Nats' SS Ian Desmond, who tied the game in the bottom of the ninth with a two-out, two-strike, line drive home run to left off Phillies' reliever Antonio Bastardo, was 4 for 14 with two doubles and a HR in the series, and Johnson said he likes what he's seeing from the 25-year-old infielder. "I've talked to him one on one the last couple days, trying to clear his mind a little bit. He tries to do so much, we just simplify it with him," Johnson said. "He's a very aggressive player, and sometimes he's just overly aggressive. You don't want to take away from that, but you want to be a little more patiently aggressive. He'll chase balls out of the strike zone and try to make something happen and that's what usually young guys do."
Johnson pointed to Desmond's first at bat of Sunday's game, when he hit an opposite field double on an 0-1 fastball from Roy Halladay as an example of how that aggressiveness can work too. "His first at bat he hit the ball off of Halladay, he went with it, got a good swing on it, went with it, and I see signs of him coming out of that little kind of funk he was in." Desmond really came out of the funk it the ninth and disappointed many Philly fans who thought they were about to board buses and head back up I-95.
Asked what, as a "baseball guy" he thought about watching the Phillies fans rise thinking the game was about to end before Desmond's shocking game-extender in the ninth, Johnson said, "You know they're going to have to sit down. It kind of reminds me of '86 when all the Red Sox and everybody was on the front step. They started creeping back. It's a great feeling. We want to get our fans out here, but I love playing in front of a packed house and I know my guys like the same feeling, even if it's for the other team."
Desmond's double play partner, Danny Espinosa, who was 5 for 12 against Philadelphia with a game-tying home run in the sixth off Philly reliever Michael Schwimer and has a five-game hit streak going, has reacted well to Johnson's recent decision to move him from the top of the order to the six-spot. "He's another guy I talked to about where he's hitting in the lineup," Johnson said, "I said we needed him when I first got here early, hitting in the two-hole, which is a pretty good spot for a hitter, right in front of the best hitter on the ballclub, but when I moved Desmond up to leadoff and he was right there, I said, 'I'm going to move you down,' he said, 'Good, five or six?' and I said, 'Yeah,' and he said, 'Great,' and he shook my hand. He likes being in a situation where he's driving in more runs than he does table-setting and he had a good day today."
Johnson said the Philly invasion with the Philadelphia fan-base busing fans in to fill up Nats Park with record crowds this weekend was something new for him after 15 years as a big-league skipper. "This is kind of new for me, but I kind of look at them as our fans because they've got red on. I like good crowds, I like crowds that are in the game. Ballplayers, we like the big audience and my guys certainly weren't shying away from anything." Asked if wins like the Nationals had this weekend have a way of turning things around for a fanbase, Johnson said, "I'm hoping. I think anywhere I've ever been when the team starts winning, fans come out. They didn't come out the first year in New York, by the third year, we were packing them in, and that's what I'm hoping happens here."