The Nationals, in his first week on the job, have not given Johnson much choice. In eight games, the Nationals have executed five sacrifice bunts and stolen four bases. They won yesterday’s game with a walk, a sac bunt, a steal and a wild pitch. Big innings would be nice, but Johnson might just take a big game.

“You know, we’ve got guys that can go out of the ballpark,” Johnson said. “But we’re scoring on groundballs in the infield and walks. It’s not really a good comfort zone for me yet. But I think we’re a much better ballclub than that, and I think we’re going to show it in the second half.”

Later, Johnson said, “We’re just not expressing our talent as much as I’d like to see us do,” which is an interesting way to put it. He believes in the players he’s got. They aren’t playing so hot right now.

Injuries explain part of that. That’s not an excuse, because every single team in baseball uses the disabled list plenty. But yesterday’s nip-and-tuck win displayed the extent to which injuries have diminished the Nationals’ roster.

In the eighth inning, Johnson needed a pinch-hitter for reliever Tyler Clippard. Ryan Zimmerman, not starting with tenderness in the abdominal region that required surgery in May, had pinch-hit, walked and been immediately replaced by pinch-runner Brian Bixler. Rick Ankiel had pinch-hit, too.

On his bench, then, Johnson had only backup catcher Wilson Ramos and Michael Morse, who was out with a bruise that prevented him from rotating his left forearm. So to lead off the eighth inning of a tie game, Johnson sent to the plate Jason Marquis, Sunday’s starting pitcher. After Marquis worked a full count, he struck out looking.

In the 10th, Johnson pulled back Ramos off the on-deck circle and sent Livan Hernandez to pinch-hit, to drop down a bunt. That’s not exactly what Johnson has in mind. But, for one day, when circumstances demanded, it worked.

“We’re a little banged up, but we’re getting better and I think there’s good spirit on this ballclub,” Johnson said. “We’re ready to start rolling.”


The Nationals promoted Bryce Harper to Harrisburg, where he went 2 for 3 in his Class AA debut.

To end a 5-4, 10-inning win over the Cubs, Jayson Werth showed how he can contribute even when stuck in an offensive slump.


Syracuse 4, Buffalo 2: Stephen Lombardozzi went 3 for 4 with a walk. He’s hitting .424 since his promotion to Syracuse. Matt Antonelli went 3 for 4 with a double. Corey Brown went 1 for 3 with a home run. Yunesky Maya allowed two runs on five hits and three walks in 6 2/3 innings, striking out five.

Harrisburg 8, Erie 1: Bryce Harper went 2 for 3 with a walk and a run. Derek Norris went 3 for 4 with two home runs and a walk. Bill Rhinehart went 2 for 3 with two homers and two walks. Brad Peacock allowed no runs in six innings on five and two walks, striking out nine.

Potomac 7, Wilmington 4 (Game 1): Justin Bloxom went 2 for 3 with a home run and a walk. Danny Rosenbaum allowed four runs on six hits and no walks in five innings, striking out four.

Wilmington 4, Potomac 1 (Game 2): Destin Hood went 1 for 3 with a stolen base. Adam Olbrychowski allowed four runs on seven hits and no walks in six innings, striking out four.

Lakewood 3, Hagerstown 2: Blake Kelso went 2 for 3 with two walks. Taylor Jordan allowed two runs in 5 1/3 innings on seven hits and two walks, striking out five.

Auburn 9, State College 5: Justin Miller went 3 for 6 with two doubles and a home run. Matt Skole went 2 for 4 with two doubles and a walk.