Washington Nationals' manager Davey Johnson told reporters this morning he contemplated making more changes to his lineup for the series finale with St. Louis. When the lineup was released this morning, however, the two changes he did make: substituting Tyler Moore for Adam LaRoche at first vs Cardinals' lefty Jaime Garcia and resting Kurt Suzuki in a day game after a night game with Jhonatan Solano getting a start, were not necessarily the sort big changes some may have expected after last night's post game comments. The choices he made for this afternoon's game, Johnson said, were made with matchups and a little bit of a shake-up in mind.
Asked about the decision to sit LaRoche after an 0 for 4, 4 K game last night and a rough start to the season, Johnson said it was a tough choice. "I talked to LaRoche last night after the ballgame," Johnson explained, "the one thing, you know, after a not-particularly-good game, you certainly don't want to sit out the next one. I said, 'I'm not heaping it on you, but we've just got to shake things up a little bit.' A lot of times I'll put all the 'shock troops' in, but it's not quite to that point."
Johnson also talked about the decision to leave switch-hitting infielder Danny Espinosa in the lineup against the left-handed Cards' starter. In 16 games and 57 plate appearances this season, the 25-year-old second baseman, who's playing with a torn rotator cuff, has a .167/.211/.315 line with five doubles and a home run so far this year. Johnson said it wasn't fair to single Espinosa out among the hitters who are struggling. "He's not alone," the Nats' skipper said, "There's -- pretty much everybody except for [Bryce Harper] and [Steve Lombardozzi], guys are motivated, trying to make things happen [and] sometimes when you do that you just play into the hands of the pitcher. You're too aggressive, not aggressive enough, you just don't keep it simple enough."
"Danny had a great Spring," Johnson explained, "He's a deep thinker too. Sometimes he gets in his own way. But, I mean if there was a secret formula on how to get people to relax and do the things that they're capable of doing, everybody would bottle it. But basically, just have a little patience. I see signs where it looks like he's really getting focused and then I see times where he gets thinking too much, and he's not alone. [Ian Desmond] does the same thing, tries to do too much. You have conversations with them, but mostly you've got to just stay positive."
Though he's not hitting left or right-handers particularly well so far this season, in his career, Espinosa has a .272/.343/.462 line from the right side and he's 4 for 9 vs Garcia.
"He feels very confident from the right side," Johnson said this morning, "I like what he's doing from the left side, it just hasn't bore much fruit for him yet. But, and again, sometimes he just tries to do too much. All of them are so motivated and driven to be so good, it's hard for me to berate them or get on them, because I know they're grinding. They're foxhole guys, they come to play. But you've just got to ride out the rough times."
The 70-year-old skipper and former major league second baseman said he's happy with Espinosa's approach at the plate. "His approach is definitely better," Johnson said, "I like where he's at, he just [needs] one ballgame to get him going. That could be said for a lot of the guys."
The loss to the Cards in the second of three for St. Louis in D.C. left the Nationals 10-10 so far this season with a five-game losing streak at home in the nation's capital. The Nats turn to Stephen Strasburg in the finale as they try to salvage one after losing the first two games with the Cards.