“All year, we’ve always been playing one-run games. Now we become whole,” said Johnson, enjoying the win in his office. “We’ll get our closer back [Drew Storen, by late next week]. Other guys did a great job. But we’re starting to get close to our best team.”
Of course, another potential big bat, Jayson Werth, who’s been shagging balls in the outfield this week with the team, may be back before the end of July.
“We’re just finally getting the team we thought we’d have,” Johnson said. “It’s fun.”
It’s more than fun. It stretches the imagination. The Nats’ 47-32 record is no fluke. They’ve played more than two-thirds of their games (54 of 79) against teams with winning records, plus 11 more against the supposedly credible Phillies and Marlins. They’ve outscored their foes by 21.5-percent (334-275), second only to Texas. Now, they’re even winning games easily, as the better clubs usually do, so their starting pitchers sometimes have a cushion and their bullpen gets some rest.
How good is this team?
“We better win now,” reliever Tyler Clippard said, grinning, “because we’re going to get pretty expensive pretty fast.” No, payroll won’t be staying in the current lowest-in-the-NL-East neighborhood for long.
“Right now it’s still too early,” said Zimmerman of full-season predictions. “A switch will flip when we win and have champagne. We know we have a good team. But we also know nobody’s ever won anything in July. Even if we go into a skid, we know we’ll come out of it if we keep doing the things we are doing now.
“We thought we’d be good,” Zimmerman added. “But to be 15 games over .500 on the Fourth of July with all the injuries we’ve had, hardly anybody would have thought that was possible.”
Teams know, before the public, even before their foes, where they are headed. They live every detail. On Tuesday, pitcher Jordan Zimmermann said, “If we keep hitting the way we’re hitting now, I don’t see why we can’t run away with this thing in the second half.”
Don’t tell baseball what to do. It has its own plans. The Nats have their ears close to the ground, trying to hear what’s coming next for them. What might it be?
“Go with it,” Zimmerman said. “RUN with it.”
For Thomas Boswell’s previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/boswell