"This was fun today. Really fun." Davey Johnson, on his team's 9-3 win over Atlanta.
The Washington Nationals finally had a "Davey Johnson game", pounding out six extra-base hits, including three home runs and two triples, and got another solid pitching performance from John Lannan, to take a second straight game from the Wild Card leading Atlanta Braves, 9-3, before 24,326 at Nationals Park.
The Nats manager has always preferred to play the Earl Weaver style of baseball, getting runners on and driving them home, as opposed to the Whitey Herzog philosophy of bunting runners over and playing "small ball". He finally got one of those games.
"This was my kind of game," Johnson said happily from his office after the game. "I haven't had any yet. I've been here five weeks, and I've been waiting for one like this."
By the end of the game, Nats fans were so happy about winning the series from the Braves -- and the Nats fourth consecutive win overall -- some were taunting the opponent with their own version of the "Tomahawk Chop", the annoying and droning cheer made popular at Turner Field and occasionally broken out on the road in blowouts.
But the blowout last night was in favor of the home team, with Rick Ankiel blasting a grand slam for his third homer in two games, Ian Desmond's first home run since April, and Michael Morse's titanic blast, reaching the upper deck in center field, a spot previously reached in Nats Park by only the brawniest of left-handed hitters.
Of the offensive outburst, Johnson said, "It's nice to see it. We haven't seen it all year long."
Lannan, on the other hand, got better as the game went on. He was a bit shaky in the third and fourth innings, giving up three runs and looking like he might tax Johnson's bullpen. Tom Gorzelanny even got up to get warm at one point.
But after the Nats exploded for five runs in the fourth against Braves starter Derek Lowe (L, 6-10, 4.86), Lannan got into a real nice groove, retiring nine of the next ten batters before consecutive two out hits in the seventh had Johnson calling on Henry Rodriguez, who struck out Dan Uggla on a pitch on the outside corner that Uggla thought was a little too outside.
Hot Rod went on to finish the game, allowing just one hit and -- more importantly -- no walks, striking out four in his 2 1/3 innings of work, allowing Johnson to rest an overworked bullpen. "The big thing today, not only my starter, but Henry Rodriguez," Johnson said without prompting in his post-game press conference.
"He did a heck of a job, saved my pen. He came in and was almost unhittable. That was big. He's got a great curve ball, and a lot of times he tries to do too much. He really just stayed within himself. He really didn't get behind on hitters. And he's nasty. His stuff is filthy."
For the night, Lannan (8-7, 3.65) went 6 2/3 innings, allowing three earned runs on nine hits and one walk. He struck out eight, a season-high for him. And for the second outing in his last three, Johnson stuck with him into the seventh inning, allowing Lannan to throw 110 pitches.
The Nationals have now taken consecutive series against division opponents, something that Johnson has said is critical for the Nats to compete. They've also crept back to within three games of .500. It's a confidence boost for them to shake off the six game losing streak last week by winning four in a row now.
"This is what this club is capable of doing," Johnson said. "When everyone starts getting that fever, that hitting fever, it's fun. But the talent's been here."
THE GOOD: Five Nats had two hits apiece, and Ankiel's grand slam was the big blow. Ian Desmond added three RBIs.
THE BAD: There really wasn't anything bad in this one. Even defensive replacement Brian Bixler got a hit in his only at bat, raising his season's average to .192.
THE UGLY: Ugly for Atlanta. Jonny Gomes scored on a Lannan grounder with the bases loaded when first baseman Freddie Freeman threw high to catcher David Ross, pulling him off the bag. To make sure of his safeness, and to avoid the possibility of a double play, Gomes went out of his way to put a hard tag on Ross, and while Ross was in the air, Gomes swept his legs and Ross crashed to the ground on his back. Upon the safe call, Ross argued with the ump to no avail. Ross later told reporters, "I was for sure that I was on the base and I was for sure wrong."
THE STATS: 14 hits, two walks, six strikeouts. 3-for-8 with RISP, eight LOB, zero GIDP. No errors or DPs.
NEXT GAME: Wednesday at 1:05 against the Braves. Chien-Ming Wang (0-1, 9.00) hosts Brandon Beachy (4-2, 3.27).
NATS NOTES: RHP Collin Balester was recalled from AAA-Syracuse before the game to take the open roster spot when LHP Athualpa Severino was returned to the Chiefs yesterday. Balester will be used primary as a "long man" in Davey Johnson's bullpen.