Did you want Dusty Baker to tinker with the Washington Nationals’ lineup? Did he even think about it last night, did he wait for late night inspiration while he was lying in bed as he often does with pen and paper close by so he can write down any thoughts?
“I think about it,” Baker told reporters when he spoke this afternoon, after the Nats dropped the series opener with the Chicago Cubs last night in the nation’s capital.
“But if I can’t come up with anything different, then why are you — why are you going to do it? You don’t do it just to be doing it. You know, you’re like, okay, is this the best lineup that I have for today, or was yesterday a rare occasion?
“Or, you know, was yesterday the pitcher's day; you know, sometimes they have their day and it has nothing to do with the lineup that you put out there.
“On some days, when the pitcher's on, you can put Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, all of them out there, and he's still going to get them out.”
But when you struggle offensively, however, like the Nationals did last night, how do you convince yourself to just stick with your approach?
“Well, when you only had two hits,” Baker said, “that meant that your approach wasn't correct.
“And so we have to change our approach. First thing you want to do in a series is to find out what their opinion of you is and how they are going to attack you.
“And once you figure that out, then you can counterattack them.
“Last night, we were, you know, more passive on fastballs early in the count than I would like to see. Because everybody talks about getting deep in the count, and all that does is just put you in a situation where you've got to hit something off a guy with control, hit something off the plate or off-speed, which he did to us last night.
“We just got to change our approach some.”
Baker said that there is, however, “... a fine line between urgency and panic, and the thing that you never want to do is panic.”
“I've been in almost all situations,” he explained. “I've been up two games and lost; been down two games with one to go and won. You know, you've got to win the first one, first. You've got to get back to one.
“Urgency or panic certainly doesn't help the situation, you know. You have to be of the coolness of mind, but then bring desire to succeed in your heart, and then respond accordingly.”
“You know, it's always an urgent situation, but usually the cool heads prevail,” Baker continued. “So I think we've got a bunch of cool heads here. Plus, we win today, you guys won't even ask me those questions.”
Bryce Harper shared similar sentiments when he spoke to reporters, explaining that he thought the Nationals shouldn’t build this game up to be more than it is.
“I think the biggest thing is trying to not make it such a big game,” the 24-year-old right fielder said, after connecting for one of the Nationals’ two hits last night and going 1 for 4 overall.
“You're playing against one of the best teams in all of baseball,” Harper said, “but you have to understand that we are one of the best teams in all of baseball, as well. Just got to go out there and play the game the right way, play hard, and try to do the things that we can to, you know, win games.”
Asked how he’s feeling now, after six games back in the lineup following the knee/calf injury he suffered on August 12th, which landed him on the DL, Harper said he feels fine, but there’s room for improvement.
“I think it could get better; it always can,” he said. “But I think it can definitely get better the farther we go.
“You know, the more at-bats I get, the more comfortable I get. Those four games, it's kind of like playing four games in spring training. You know, taking six weeks off, seven weeks off, not seeing live pitching is tough. You know, just got to go out there, see the ball, and try to hit it the best I can.”
“Yeah, he's telling the truth,” Baker said, when informed of Harper’s comments. “You know, one thing about Bryce, he's going to tell you the truth.”
Asked what he sees from Harper so far, Baker declined to offer any specifics.
“I feel the same way he feels. I've already stated that the longer this goes, the better Bryce has to get, right. I can't tell you what I see, because you might be a double agent for the Cubs. You know, I don't want them to know any more than they already know. I'd like for them and the world to guess where he is.”