So, Roger Bernadina, Rick Ankiel and Ian Desmond never got within six feet of a ball that any of them could have caught. If baseball had a “team error” (a novelty that is only a century overdue) all three runs in the first would have been unearned.
The aftermath of this sloppy, dispirited defeat, distinguished only by a home run hitter’s home run by Bryce Harper — a high fly to center that just kept carrying into the third row behind the 14-foot-high wall — may have given a tip-off that Johnson considers this a vital time for the Nats to focus.
Davey seldom gets hot at stuff his players do, but there are ugly games when he makes it clear that he’ll make everybody, including the biggest names on his team (such as Cal Ripken Jr.), specifically accountable.
“This game started bad, kept going that way,” he said, noting “the three guys” who should’ve caught the pop, then waving off any praise of Harper’s homer, saying, “Harp broke the wrong way on a ball and it cost us a run.”
Johnson is a player’s manager, but the Nats, even at 22-14 and a half-game out of first place, are at a crucial point where their postseason chances can be jeopardized if they slack off at all before their core players start returning.
The best of all solutions to injury is exceptional pitching. And except for Storen, every essential Nats hurler is healthy. In many cases, such asGio Gonzalez (1.94 ERA), Jordan Zimmermann (2.14), Ross Detwiler (2.75), Craig Stammen (1.29), Ryan Mattheus (2.12) and Sean Burnett (0.90), they are pitching the best of their lives.
“We are a team, but everyone also has their own job to do,” reliever Tyler Clippard said. “Before the game, you might say, ‘Dang, man, we’re banged up.’ But when the lights come on, you don’t have time to think about it.
“In some ways it helps the young guys. They know they’re going to play a lot. They think: ‘Nah, we’re going to win anyway. I’m going to step up.’ ”
Because their pitching, 11 deep, is the best in baseball so far by a wide margin (2.86 ERA), the Nats can afford to have patience in healing, especially if Zimmerman, hitting .230 with one homer, wakes up.
“We’re still in first place. We’re going to get more confidence as the year goes on,” Clippard said. “We’ll be a better team in July, August and September. We’re excited even though it [stinks] everybody is getting hurt.”
And if that doesn’t work, they say topical analgesic balm is good for boils.
For Thomas Boswell’s previous columns go to washingtonpost.com/