The Nationals have scored one run their past two games, which followed a 23-run outburst in the two preceding games. Manager Davey Johnson said last night the inconsistency was “putting me in the loony bin.”
This morning brought evidence he may not have been joking. Johnson walked into his daily press conference at 9:45 with a stars-and-stripes Phiten necklace around his neck, and he promptly attempted to wear it around his head. “It’s my hittin’ machine,” he declared.
Johnson had flipped shortstop Ian Desmond and right fielder Jayson Werth in the Nationals lineup, moving Desmond to second and dropping Werth to sixth. Why?
“I don’t know,” Johnson said, his shoulders shaking as he laughed. “Because I’m supposed to do something.
“I had an epiphany last night around 9:30, and I called Desi. I said, ‘Desi, I’m changing something. I’m just going to flip you and Werth. The heck with it.’ I said, ‘Don’t change nothing, just keep hacking. Keep the fan on.’ ”
Johnson explained the derivation of his “keep the fan on” phrase. Frank Howard, the old Senators slugger, used to yell that to players all the time, it turns out. He would, according to Johnson, yell, “Give it it’s head and let it buck! Turn on the fan! Keep swinging!”
Johnson, perhaps realizing no one in the room had any earthly idea what he was talking about, stopped himself. “I am going crazy,” he said.
Later, Johnson added that while he had called Desmond, he had not yet spoken to the other affected party.
“I didn’t even explain it to Werth,” Johnson said. “He’ll figure it out that I’m an idiot.”
In his career, batting lower in the order has seemed to suit Desmond. He has hit .281/.312/.398 in 453 plate appearances as a No. 2 hitter. In 519 plate appearances batting sixth, Desmond has hit .299/.347/.538. As a second hitter, Werth has a .775 OPS, compared to .826 as a sixth hitter.
Anthony Rendon remains the Nationals’ No. 7 hitter, which seems at odds with his success. Since the Nationals recalled him a month ago, Rendon has effectively been the Nationals’ best hitter, batting .330/.355/.485. He was hitting second before Bryce Harper returned.
Johnson was asked if Rendon could move back up the lineup. He let out a long breath.
“I don’t know,” Johnson said, smiling and shrugging. “I don’t have the answers.”
“My Ouija board is just, I’m having a problem with it,” Johnson added. “I thought about throwing a bunch of names in a hat and picking them out. But I ain’t to that point yet.”
As the clocked neared 10, Johnson started looking forward to the day’s events. He called Neil Diamond, who will sing during the seventh inning stretch, an “idol” of his. “Is he older than me?” Johnson asked. “Not many are.”
Johnson also anticipated hearing Gen. Martin Dempsey sing the national anthem. Johnson and Dempsey have become friends, with Johnson even eating dinner at Dempsey’s house one night.
“I was very impressed,” Johnson said. “He had a telephone. Seemed like a whole bunch of red buttons on it. I didn’t have my glasses on, but I think countries were on there. My wife did ask, ‘When your grandchildren were over, did you ever have to worry about them picking up the phone?’ I know it would be a problem in my household if there were some red buttons on the phone.”
Just a stellar press conference all the way around. Happy Fourth, everyone. Here are the lineups.
1. Denard Span, CF
2. Ian Desmond, SS
3. Bryce Harper, LF
4. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
5. Adam LaRoche, 1B
6. Jayson Werth, RF
7. Anthony Rendon, 2B
8. Wilson Ramos, C
9. Taylor Jordan, SP
1. Norichka Aoki, RF
2. Jean Segura, SS
3. Carlos Gomez, CF
4. Jonathan Lucroy, C
5. Juan Francisco, 3B
6. Sean Halton, 1B
7. Logan Scafer, LF
8. Jeff Bianchi, 2B
9. Donovan Hand, SP