The statistics for the Nationals are more than interesting, they seem to point to a trend: the D.C. Nine are certainly capable of winning series, but they have swept only one all year. The trend was continued on Thursday afternoon, with David Wright’s New York Mets keeping the Nationals from a sweep of the Madoffs — in a decisive 9-5 win.
Wright had two home runs on the game, backing the 7.1 inning pitching of New York ace knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. Dickey was not exactly stellar on Thursday afternoon, but he certainly outpitched Washington lefty starter Gio Gonzalez, who was forced from the game in the 4th inning, having given up six earned runs.
For New York, today’s game was a game of bats, as the Madoffs unleashed the power of their line-up for the first time in the series: David Wright homered twice in the game, Ike Davis once — and the Mets snapped out nine runs on eleven hits (the Nationals actually outhit the Amazins, but left more runners on base) and scored in each of the first four innings.
Ruben Tejada, Andres Torres, David Wright, Ike Davis and Justin Turner led the across-the-board Mets attack, each of them with two hits. And while the Nationals mounted a semi-comeback, with the D.C. Nine putting runs on the board in the sixth, eighth and ninth innings, it was hardly enough to threaten an eventual Mets triumph. Still, this was vintage Nationals: the separate near rallies reinforced the view of Nats fans that their team never gives up — the team has eleven victories in their last at-bat.
Despite the loss, the Nationals were able to bang out fourteen hits, proof that a team that once had problems at the plate have largely resolved them. Ryan Zimmerman hit his eleventh home run, and Michael Morse (who is slowly starting to find his swing) plated two. Mark DeRosa was 2-3 off the bench, and Tyler Moore 2-2.
“We fought back, even without our best guys out there, which is a good sign,” shortstop Ian Desmond said following the loss. “We had some good at-bats coming down the stretch there. They changed pitchers like 4-5 times. For them to do that, they obviously respect us enough to know we’re never out of the game.”
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Washington Nationals’ manager Davey Johnson can put lipstick on a pig with the best of them, but today’s postgame Q&A was a work of art. “There’s a lot to like about this game,” he told the assembled media. “We got some things done.”
Like? He named four “things” he wanted to get done — and more: he wanted to use the game to get Drew Storen back into the bullpen (and he did so, though Storen, he said, “looked a little rusty”), he wanted to give his bench players time at the plate (he did that, with Mark DeRosa, Tyler Moore and Roger Bernadina all contributing), he wanted to give Craig Stammen innings on the mound (Stammen threw three innings, but gave up three runs), and he wanted to set up his bullpen for the Atlanta series.
Lost in this, it seemed, was the fact that the Nationals had just been schooled, in front of 36,000 — and at their own ballpark. Yet, this was a magical performance, and vintage Davey Johnson. For if Johnson is anything, he’s a manager who believes in (what was tiresomely called) “the power of positive thinking.” Today was not only no different, by the end of the news conference you’d have thought that losing was a part of Johnson’s plan.
We can’t help it. A comparison with Jim Riggleman comes to mind: Riggleman always told the media that he believed “the glass is half full.” Oddly, the more he said it, the more the glass looked half empty. Johnson’s magic is that he never has to say it explicitly — he just keeps smiling along. And winning.