Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 8/22/13
Washington Nationals Manager Davey Johnson has begun looking beyond this season. For days he has dropped hints about squeezing more playing time for younger players over some slumping starters. Although General Manager Mike Rizzo said earlier this week he hadn’t given up on the Nationals’ postseason hopes both he and Johnson are aware of the long odds the Nationals face. “We’re not in the position I’d like to be in but there is a necessity to look at some guys” Johnson said before Wednesday’s game at Wrigley Field. “. . . Going forward I’m going to be doing a little bit of platooning which I don’t feel I needed to do early. But guys haven’t performed at the level they’re supposed to be performing at. So I’ll give some other guys an opportunity to be in a semi-platoon role.” Perhaps it’s a motivational tactic by the veteran manager perhaps it’s just Johnson being a realist. Either way the team’s veteran hitters appeared to get the message — at least for a night — in an 11-6 win. Jayson Werth’s torrid hitting continued with a three-run homer in the third that staked veteran starter Ross Ohlendorf to a 6-1 lead. Ohlendorf and rookie long reliever Tanner Roark gave the entire margin back in the fifth as the Cubs knotted the game at 6. But Scott Hairston delivered a pinch-hit three-run homer in the seventh to break the game back open and Denard Span and Ryan Zimmerman two veteran cogs in the lineup added run-scoring hits in the eighth to put the game out of reach. “Eleven runs?” Johnson said. “You’d think it’s Christmas.” Said Werth: “I know [a comeback] can happen. I haven’t given up hope. I haven’t stopped believing in this season. My focus is on the task at hand and this season. I also realize what has to happen. You can really only take care of yourself. We probably can only lose maybe 10 more games. Maybe. That’s if one of those other teams loses a lot of games.” While the team’s regulars delivered the win the Nationals still trail the Cincinnati Reds by 91 / 2 games for the second wild-card spot with 35 games left in the season. Mathematically the Nationals are still alive and hoping for the magical run that has eluded them all season. But they are quietly practical. Rosters expand in 10 days and more youngsters will be on the way. Developing players already on the roster such as Tyler Moore will become a priority. On the mound on Wednesday two parts of the roster collided. Ohlendorf 31 returned after missing three weeks with right shoulder inflammation. An unheralded offseason minor league signing that has worked out well for the Nationals the veteran fired four strong innings before faltering in the fifth. The Nationals then turned to Roark whose potential may earn him a few starts down the stretch. Ohlendorf allowed a leadoff single to Logan Watkins and then induced a groundout from Starlin Castro. Zimmerman started a potential double play but Steve Lombardozzi’s relay was too late to get Castro. Two pitches later Anthony Rizzo clobbered a two-run homer onto Sheffield Avenue. A five-run lead was chopped to three with one monstrous swing. Roark erased the rest.
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