Johnson had never before resorted to a squeeze play; he doesn’t even like to sacrifice bunt. But the Nationals will test any manager’s limits. Their past 10 victories have all come either by one run or in extra innings – Johnson, 5-5 after winning three straight over the Cubs, has yet to manage a two-run victory.
“You haven’t been here the last eight days that I’ve been here?” Johnson said when asked why he’d chosen Wednesday for his first squeeze play. “You got to open up the crackerjack box.”
And while I don’t have access to a database of every Johnson game, I do have a Lexis-Nexis account. And thus:
July 3, 1984: Gooden sacrificed Gardenhire to third and then Backman laid down a suicide squeeze bunt for a single.
Oct. 2, 1985: In the seventh, though, Ron Darling missed a suicide-squeeze bunt that would have provided him with a 1-0 lead.
June 30, 1988: Lenny Dykstra singled to start the third and stole second and third before Strawberry hit an opposite-field homer into the left-field bullpen with two out. New York made it 4-0 in the fourth on Wally Backman’s suicide squeeze bunt.
Aug 5., 1988: Elster’s attempt at a suicide squeeze Tuesday in the first game with the Cubs was popped to the pitcher. It resulted in a double play with Barry Lyons being caught off third. “That was the first suicide squeeze attempt of my life,” Elster said.
Now, in fairness, none of these stories made it clear if Johnson specifically called for the squeeze. Also, four squeeze bunts during a lifetime as a manager is an extremely small number, and other stories cited Johnson’s disdain for the tactic. Also, I couldn’t find a single squeeze called by Johnson during his time with the Reds, Dodgers or Orioles, at least not in Nexis.
Still, though. Someone send this in to The Fact Checker.