On Saturday, Nationals Manager Davey Johnson decided it was time to make a move, to jump-start an offense that had been sputtering and ranked near the bottom in the major in runs scored.
Johnson gave second baseman Danny Espinosa a day off (“I just sense a little frustration”), started Steve Lombardozzi instead and, more important, moved shortstop Ian Desmond lower in the lineup, hoping to take advantage of the power has shown so far this season.
“I felt like the offense was kind of sputtering,” Johnson said. “And I just kind of mixed it up and draw it out of a hat and threw them up on the wall.”
Johnson’s last remark was, of course, tongue in cheek. He had given the moves some thought. The idea of moving Desmond in the lineup was broached by Desmond himself. He told Johnson a few days ago not to lock him in the role of the team’s leadoff hitter. Johnson answered that he hadn’t. And on Saturday, Johnson finally pulled the trigger and moved Desmond to fifth in the lineup.
In fact, in limited time this season (66 at bats in 28 games this season), Lombardozzi has a higher on-base percentage (.400) than Desmond (.294). Johnson has said before he views Lombardozzi as a prototypical leadoff hitter. “I like the fact that (Lombardozzi) knows the strike zone well,” Johnson said.
So far this season, Desmond is hitting .272/.294/.451 with six home runs and 16 runs batted in. Saturday will be the first time he has played this season and not hit leadoff.
“He’s driven in some big runs, last year and this year in the one hole,” Johnson said. “And his RBI numbers would be better if he was in a more run-producing role.”
Though Johnson said Espinosa is likely to be back in the lineup on Sunday, Saturday’s lineup provides a glimpse of Johnson’s attempt to shake up an offense that needed it, as he put it.
With Lombardozzi hitting leadoff and Harper hitting behind him, that’s two players who can get on base consistently for Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche.
“I like Harper’s energy at one or two, getting him more at bats,” Johnson said. “And later in the ball game, it kind of begs the opposing (coach) to bring in a left-hander to face those two guys.”