Results tagged ‘ Davey Johnson ’

District 9: Charlie Slowes

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At Curly W Live, we put our own spin on the traditional “10 Questions” format by asking nine questions to players, coaches, broadcasters, front office members, prospects and other Nationals personalities. This is a special “Week of Thanks” edition of District 9, featuring Nationals radio voice Charlie Slowes.

Nationals radio broadcaster Charlie Slowes

Nationals radio broadcaster Charlie Slowes

1. When you look back at 2013, what is your biggest takeaway?

The 2013 Nationals season proves that old baseball adage, “You never know!” I think everyone had those words “expect” and “anticipate” in their heads, with the thinking the Nationals would duplicate or surpass their 2012 regular season accomplishments.  Some of the experts had the Nats winning 105 games or more. But no two seasons are the same. You can’t predict injuries, fall-off in performance or different types of adversity. Things happen that you can’t predict. The Nationals late season run was how we all expected them to play all year, certainly leaving a lot of positives for next year. I think this team has overcome a lot and that the struggles of this year will benefit them going forward.

2. Describe your favorite on-the-field moment from the 2013 season.

I never have just one favorite moment. I always love Opening Day. I loved the opening ceremonies, the unveiling of the NL East Champion banner and the crowd was unbelievable. Then Bryce hit two home runs, Stephen Strasburg threw seven shutout innings and the Nats shut out the Marlins. Ryan Zimmerman’s three-homer game in Baltimore and ninth-career walk off homer against the Mets are on my list, and so is Denard Span’s diving, game-saving, game-ending catch against the Giants.

Slowes participated in the 2013 Wounded Warrior Celebrity Softball Classic at Nationals Park.

Slowes participated in the 2013 Wounded Warrior Celebrity Softball Classic at Nationals Park.

3. What was your favorite off-the-field moment?

My best off-the-field moments are often times interactions with other Nationals fans. The best day for that actually was on the field, getting to play in the Wounded Warrior Celebrity Softball Classic. Playing on the Nationals Park field with so many people staying for the game and cheering for us was a blast. It’s always an honor to be with and support those who serve and protect our country.

4. What did you learn about Jayson Werth during the 2013 season?

I learned that Jayson has the ability to lead a club, to put the team on his back and carry it when they needed it most. He said all the right things and never let this club stop fighting or give up. He has been a great teammate in the clubhouse.

5. Did you learn anything about Bryce Harper this year?

We’ve learned that at 20 years old (now 21), even though he is so impressive, I think we haven’t even scratched the surface where Bryce is concerned. He has a strong desire to play, succeed and win.

6. How do you view Davey Johnson’s legacy in D.C.?

His legacy will be attached to winning on the field, to getting the team to the postseason and helping to instill the confidence to play winning baseball, every day. He’s a Hall of Famer in my book.

7. What are your impressions of the Matt Williams hire?

I was very impressed with how Matt handled himself the day of his introductory press conference and his plans going forward. He is spending time getting to know his coaches and players, making for a smooth transition come Spring Training. There’s no doubt in my mind he’s ready for this. It will be interesting to see what might be different come spring and how he puts his stamp on this club.

Slowes opened Matt Williams' introductory press conference.

Slowes opened Matt Williams’ introductory press conference.

8. We’re about to enter our 10th season of Washington Nationals baseball here in our nation’s capital. What does that milestone mean to you?

I think 10 years means the Nationals now have a history to draw from and to refer back to. The Nationals are now a household name in Washington, providing a winning club on the field to root for with an established fan base. You see Nationals gear around the city now, no matter the time of year. The Nationals have also become an organization that has and will continue to give back to the community through the Dream Foundation and its initiatives. I am very excited to see the Youth Baseball Academy running at full speed very soon.

9. What are you most thankful for this holiday season?

First, I am thankful for the health of my family and good friends. It all starts there. Everything else is gravy on the turkey. I am also very fortunate in my role with the Nationals; being able to do something that I love with a great partner and for the great support received from the organization and of course, our listeners.

Ian Desmond Wins Second Straight Louisville Silver Slugger Award

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by Amanda Comak

Ian Desmond joins Ryan Zimmerman as the only two players to earn two Louisville Silver Slugger Awards in a Nationals uniform.

Ian Desmond joins Ryan Zimmerman as the only two players to earn two Louisville Silver Slugger Awards in a Nationals uniform.

Davey Johnson said it so often during the 2013 season, there became little point in even posing the question. In the former Washington Nationals manager’s mind, the best shortstop in the league was the one he got to write on his lineup card nearly every day. As the postseason awards begin to roll in this month, it appears the rest of the baseball world is starting to agree with Johnson.

Ian Desmond won his second consecutive Louisville Silver Slugger Award on Wednesday evening, honored again as the best-hitting shortstop in the National League.

“I play the game the way I do out of respect for the players who came before me,” Desmond said. “It’s an honor to be selected for the Silver Slugger, and it’s humbling to know that it’s voted on by National League managers and coaches.”

The Nationals’ star middle infielder beat out tough competition from Colorado Rockies slugger Troy Tulowitzki and Milwaukee Brewer Jean Segura to become just the second Nationals player to earn two Silver Slugger Awards. Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman took home the honor in 2009 and 2010.

Desmond also joins Derek Jeter (5), Hanley Ramirez (2) and Troy Tulowitzki (2) as the only active shortstops to win multiple Silver Sluggers.

Desmond, who was also a finalist for a Rawlings Gold Glove Award for the second straight year, hit .280 this past season, carrying a .331 on-base percentage that was just below his career-best .335 mark from 2012, with a .453 slugging percentage.

He was the most consistent batter in the Nationals’ lineup throughout the year, often carrying them offensively in the early months.

Desmond, 28, clubbed 20 home runs and stole 21 bases this past season — his second campaign reaching the 20-20 benchmark that recognizes speed and power — and led all NL shortstops with 38 doubles. He also drove in 80 runs.

His .784 OPS ranked second to only Tulowitzki among shortstops, but Desmond, who appeared in 158 of the Nationals’ 162 games, had 143 more plate appearances than the Rockies’ shortstop and played in 32 more games. Desmond also led all MLB shortstops with 61 extra-base hits.

A mainstay in the Nationals lineup and one of few regulars to go injury-free throughout the year, Desmond proved his breakout 2012 season was no fluke and continued to establish himself among the best in the game at his position.

Right fielder Jayson Werth had a strong case for earning one of the outfield awards, hitting .318 with a .398 on-base percentage and a .532 slugging percentage in 129 games. His .931 OPS was the best mark of his career, and Werth hit 25 home runs, 24 doubles and knocked in 82 runs in 2013.

Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Jay Bruce of the Cincinnati Reds, and Michael Cuddyer of the Colorado Rockies were the NL outfielders who took home the honors.

“Last year, it was really cool to be able to share in the excitement with my teammates when [Adam LaRoche and Stephen Strasburg] won theirs as well,” Desmond said. “I was shocked to see that Jayson didn’t get it, but respect how tough the decision process is with so many great outfielders.”

The Louisville Silver Slugger Awards, which were announced Wednesday night on MLBNetwork, are based on the regular-season performances of players and voted on by managers and coaches in each league.

Nationals Name Matt Williams Manager

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals named Matt Williams as the team’s field manager on Thursday, agreeing to terms on a multi-year contract with the five-time All-Star and former Arizona Diamondbacks coach. President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo made the announcement.

The agreement culminates a thorough process by the Nationals to find a successor to Davey Johnson, whose tenure as the team’s manager came to an end after 2 1/2 seasons.

MW_photo_darker“I am thrilled to welcome Matt to our organization and am confident he is the best choice to lead the Nationals at this time,” Rizzo said. “He is exceptionally prepared for the task. Matt came into the interview process already possessing an extensive knowledge of our organization: our roster, our Minor League system – and our fan base.

“He has genuinely creative, unique ideas on how to increase performance, and on cultivating leadership and team unity.”

Williams, 47, comes to the Nationals after four years on the Diamondbacks’ coaching staff, the last three as their third base coach. A decorated player during his 17-year career, Williams becomes the organization’s fifth manager since baseball returned to D.C. in 2005.

“Matt has a wealth of knowledge and experience as a former player and coach,” said Theodore N. Lerner, Managing Principal Owner of the Nationals. “But what most impresses us is his ability to understand and ably communicate situations and strategies in a disciplined, forthright manner. We think he is the right leader for a Washington Nationals team ready to compete for a World Series championship.”

Williams is a rookie Major League manager, but Rizzo’s relationship with him dates back more than 10 years, to their time together in the Diamondbacks organization – and this is a role in which he long thought Williams could thrive.

“I saw first-hand the leadership qualities he possessed as a player, on the field and in the clubhouse,” said Rizzo, who was a part of the Diamondbacks front office for seven years before joining the Nationals in 2006. “He’s been someone on my radar as a potential manager for years.

“Matt was a great player, but he also understands just how much hard work goes into becoming a great player. In the second phase of his baseball life, he has channeled the intensity he had as a player into becoming an intellectual coach with a calm, confident demeanor.”

Known for his hard-nosed, no-nonsense style as a player, Williams was a career .268 hitter with an .317 on-base percentage, .489 slugging percentage and .805 OPS in 1,866 games. He totaled 378 home runs, including six seasons with 30-plus home runs. Williams earned four Gold Glove Awards and four Silver Slugger Awards as a third baseman.

“I think it’s great,” Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said of the hire. “He’s a younger guy who was a good player and knows the game. I’m looking forward to getting to know him a little bit… I don’t think we were too far away from where we needed to be, and I think we’re all looking forward to next year.”

A former first-round draft pick, Williams appeared in the top 10 in the Most Valuable Player voting four times in his career, finishing as high as second in 1994, when he clubbed 43 home runs and drove in 96 runs for the San Francisco Giants in the strike-shortened season.

As a player, Williams was no stranger to the postseason. He played on six playoff teams and appeared in the World Series with the Giants (1989), Indians (1997) and Diamondbacks (2001), winning a World Series ring in Arizona. He is the only player in baseball history to hit at least one World Series home run for three different teams.

After retiring from playing in 2003, Williams dabbled in broadcasting for a few years, serving as a color analyst on select Diamondbacks broadcasts from 2005–09, and co-hosting the weekend pregame show for the Diamondbacks with his wife, Erika, in 2007. He joined the Diamondbacks as a first base coach in 2010.

In addition to his coaching duties with the Diamondbacks, Williams managed in the Arizona Fall League in 2012, leading the Salt River Rafters – which included several of the Nationals’ top prospects – to the AFL Championship Game.

Ian Desmond, Denard Span Named Rawlings Gold Glove Finalists

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by Amanda Comak

The finalists for the Rawlings Gold Glove Awards were announced this morning by Rawlings Sports, and for the second consecutive year the Washington Nationals have two players among the honorees.

Desmond is a Gold Glove finalist for the second straight season.

Desmond is a Gold Glove finalist for the second straight season.

Shortstop Ian Desmond and center fielder Denard Span were named as finalists at their respective positions, but they’ll have to wait until Tuesday, October 29 to find out if either will take home the prize.

Desmond, who was also a finalist for the award in 2012, is up against tough competition in Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons and Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.

Span faces some heady competition as well with Milwaukee Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez and Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen also named as finalists. McCutchen is considered a frontrunner for the National League’s Most Valuable Player Award when it is announced in November.

Neither Nationals player has won a Gold Glove previously, but both would be deserving of the honor this year.

Desmond, whose range and exceptionally strong throwing arm were on display often again this season, finished the year with a .971 fielding percentage. Fangraphs.com ranks him among the five best shortstops in the league in most advanced metrics categories.

Former Nationals manager Davey Johnson, a three-time Rawlings Gold Glove second baseman himself, often said that he viewed Desmond as the best shortstop in the league – offensively and defensively.

Span was a pleasure to watch patrol center field for the Nationals, often earning effusive praise from his teammates for the effortless way with which he made difficult catches look simple. The highlight to his defensive season likely came when he saved a 6-5 victory over the San Francisco Giants by making a sensational diving catch to end the game.

Advanced metrics seem to underrate Span, though Fangraphs.com still ranks him as having the third-best Ultimate Zone Rating in the league behind A.J. Pollock and McCutchen, perhaps because he is not among the most laser-armed outfielders. But his exceptional defensive work does not go unnoticed by those on the field. Jayson Werth said late in the 2013 season that he trusts Span more than any center fielder he’d ever played with .

070313-461 denard span

Span excelled in center field in his first season with the Nationals.

Each manager and up to six coaches on each staff voted from a pool of qualified players in their league, and cannot vote for players on their own team. But this year, for the first time in its 57-year history, Rawlings added a sabermetric component to the Rawlings Gold Glove Award selection process, as part of its new collaboration with the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).

The SABR Defensive Index accounted for approximately 25 percent of the overall selection total, with the managers and coaches’ vote continuing to carry the majority.

The winners of the 2013 Rawlings Gold Glove Awards will be announced Tuesday night at 8 p.m. on ESPN2 in a special one-hour Baseball Tonight.

From the Desk of Mark D. Lerner

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Hello everyone.

Another summer of Nationals baseball is in the books.

Eighty-six wins and a late-season charge that both captivated and frustrated fans and players alike.

I have been asked by friends and fans how a team with such a talented roster could play sub-.500 baseball for four months – breaking our hearts – and then come back and play so well during the season’s final six weeks?

All I know is there is no ‘sure thing’ in our game and we were certainly reminded of that in 2013. Some might answer that baseball’s true beauty is rooted in its humility. I’m proud of the way this team struggled back to finish the season, going 32-16 in the last seven-plus weeks – giving us back our hope for 2014.

Here are a few of my final thoughts on this season:

  • Congratulations to Ian Desmond on his second consecutive 20-homer, 20-stolen base season. It is a joy to watch a true professional play at his level, day-in and day-out. From my seat, I see that he’s quickly becoming the best shortstop in baseball.
  • Jayson Werth led the Nationals late-season surge.

    Jayson Werth led the Nationals late-season surge.

    Jayson Werth’s stellar season should put him on a short, short list for National League Comeback Player of the Year. His return from last year’s gruesome left wrist injury is simply remarkable. I know from personal experience how seriously and with what care he treats his health – intense rehab and workouts, and near fanatical nutrition.

  • Wilson Ramos is a difference-maker in our lineup. His ironman streak of 24 consecutive starts behind the plate with seven home runs and 24 RBI was one of the major factors in bringing this team up in the standings.
  • It was disappointing that Jordan Zimmermann was not able to capture his 20th win last week at Busch Stadium, but that takes nothing away from a terrific ‘13 season. I would expect Jordan to capture some votes in the National League Cy Young Award voting.
  • While Denard Span’s 29-game hitting streak was memorable, I also think it meant he finally found his comfort level in D.C. and the National League. If you remember, Jayson coped with some of his own transition issues when he joined us in 2011 after a long tenure with the Phillies, but found his groove and became the team contributor that we see today.
  • We had our fair share of injuries and adversity in 2013. I would have loved to see one more month out of Werth, 130 total starts from Ramos, and for Bryce Harper to have avoided that right field wall at Dodger Stadium at the beginning of the season, but those were the cards we were dealt. That said, those injuries afforded Anthony Rendon, Taylor Jordan, Ian Krol and Tanner Roark the opportunity to showcase their talents over the long stretch. Both the team and the players will benefit from those innings on the field.
  • I’d be remiss if I did not thank Davey Johnson for an historic run as our manager. Who will ever forget the summer of 2012, when postseason baseball returned to The Nation’s Capital for the first time since 1933? I know I won’t. Thanks Davey for helping to author memories that will never fade.
  • Lastly, I want to thank not only those reading this blog, but all of our fans that stand behind this team on a daily basis. Attendance was up over 9% this season. TV ratings were fantastic. Your passion for Nats baseball is felt all the way to the clubhouse – I’ve even heard our players talk about it. Your enthusiasm reminds us all why this game matters.  Thank you!
Jordan Zimmerman's 19 wins paced the Nationals staff.

Jordan Zimmermann’s 19 wins paced the Nationals staff.

Mike Rizzo will soon begin interviews to find our next manager. With most of our young talent in place for the next several years, and a strong pitching foundation built around an accomplished rotation, I have to think we have an attractive position to offer. I know Mike has a working list of candidates in mind, but he’s also talking to executives from around the game that he respects. This search will be extensive and we expect he’ll deliver the right man for the job.

It’s my hope that many of you will be able to meet our new skipper at NatsFest in January. We will be rolling out the specifics on our signature offseason event shortly. And MLB’s Winter Meetings (December 9-12 in Orlando, FL) will be here in short time too. Almost time to fire up the Hot Stove.

Yes, I know we all just completed a grueling 162-game season, but my optimism is already on ‘high’ for 2014.

Mark

What to Watch for: 9.29.13

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Washington Nationals (86-75) vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (80-81)

RHP Tanner Roark (7-1, 1.74) vs. LHP Wade Miley (10-10, 3.63) 

The visiting clubhouse at Chase Field was light and boisterous on Sunday, the final day of the 2013 regular season. A half-dozen regular starters, none of whom were penciled into the lineup for the season finale, took in breakfast while they absorbed the first slate of NFL games on the RedZone channel. Hoots and hollers sprung up from the back rooms, where a season-long challenge was determined with a final weigh-in. And for the last time, Davey Johnson huddled with the media in his office, in uniform for one final game.

In typical Davey fashion, he refused to let the moment become too sentimental.

“It’s not like I’m dying tomorrow,” he quipped, after a particularly overwrought question about what it all meant.

He did allow himself a moment of reflection, though, about his five decades in the game.

“I feel melancholy, because this is a great group of guys, a great organization, and the city that made me love baseball, with the Senators,” he said. “My life has come full circle.”

Once a bat boy for the original Nationals, Johnson helped return baseball glory to Washington by guiding the 2012 club to the first postseason in The District since 1933. But despite repeated attempts to cajole his favorite moment from the past two-and-a-half seasons, Johnson played his cards close to the vest.

“Everywhere I go, my goal is always to make the team better,” he explained, saying that he would leave the decision on Washington’s next skipper to the man who appointed him, Mike Rizzo. “Well, the last manager he hired did a good job. I hope.”

Johnson will head back to D.C., then home to Florida, where he says his golf group is already set for Wednesday. He has joked since Spring Training about his impending vacation to Bora Bora, and reiterated that he has no desire to be a Major League manager next season. But the charm of the game still pulls at him.

“When you love the game as much as I love this game, with the competition, you just enjoy it,” he said.

Johnson will return as a senior advisor to Rizzo next season, but what about other opportunities the game might afford him?

“I never say never to anything, I’m always open for new challenges,” he said. “Heck, I’ve already got a job to manage in the Florida Collegiate Summer League next summer.”

And so, just like the season itself, while Davey’s career as manager of the Nationals comes to a close, it does not really end. After all, pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in about 19 weeks.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Jeff Kobernus LF

2. Anthony Rendon 2B

3. Scott Hairston RF

4. Tyler Moore 1B

5. Zach Walters SS

6. Steve Lombardozzi 2B

7. Jhonatan Solano C

8. Eury Perez CF

9. Tanner Roark RHP

FINISHING STRONG

Dating to August 9, Washington owns Major League Baseball’s best record (32-15, .680). Over the same span, Washington paces the National League in runs scored (235) and run differential (+70).

3B-SPAN

Denard Span enters the final day of the regular season leading MLB with a career-high 11 triples. No D.C.-based big leaguer has ever led MLB in triples, although 3B Howie Shanks (18 in 1921) and SS Joe Cassidy (19 in 1904) did tie for the MLB lead in three-baggers. In 2009 with the Twins, Span tied Jacoby Ellsbury for the AL lead with 10 triples.

ROAD LESS TRAVELED

The Nationals are 105-94 on the road under Davey Johnson. The corresponding .528 road win percentage in that span ranks third in MLB behind only Texas (.562) and Los Angeles (NL) (.534).

What to Watch for: 9.27.13

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Washington Nationals (84-75) vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (80-79)

RHP Stephen Strasburg (7-9, 3.02) vs. LHP Patrick Corbin (14-7, 3.28)

Washington opens its final series of the 2013 season Friday night in Phoenix against the Arizona Diamondbacks. While the series does not have any postseason implications, the opening matchup will pit two of the brightest young pitchers in the National League against one another as Stephen Strasburg faces off against Patrick Corbin. These two met earlier this year with each allowing two runs over 7.0 innings of work in a game that was eventually won by Arizona, 3-2 in 11 innings.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Jeff Kobernus LF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Jayson Werth RF

4. Bryce Harper CF

5. Ian Desmond SS

6. Wilson Ramos C

7. Tyler Moore LF

8. Anthony Rendon 2B

9. Stephen Strasburg RHP

EVEN STEPHEN

Stephen Strasburg will make his career-high 30th start of the season tonight. He will also add to his career-best innings total, which sits at 176.0 entering play. Strasburg has improved upon his ERA, and WHIP thus far this year, and he needs 10 more strikeouts to match his career high (197), set last season.

SHORT LIST

Jayson Werth (.316) appears likely to become the fifth qualified National to hit .300+ in a single season, joining Dmitri Young (.320, 2007), Cristian Guzman (.316, 2008), Ryan Zimmerman (.307, 2010) and Michael Morse (.303, 2011) on the short list.

ROAD LESS TRAVELED

The Nationals are 103-94 on the road under Davey Johnson. The corresponding .523 road win percentage in that span ranks fourth in Major League Baseball behind only Texas (.562), Los Angeles NL (.534) and Detroit (.532).

What to Watch for 9.24.13

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Washington Nationals (84-73) vs. St. Louis Cardinals (92-65)

LHP Gio Gonzalez (11-7, 3.39) vs. RHP Michael Wacha (3-1, 3.21)

The Nationals can damage the Cardinals chances of clinching the NL Central with wins in either or both of their final two games in St. Louis. The Pirates and Reds both currently trail the Red Birds by two games in the tightly contested division. Davey Johnson will stick with his everyday lineup on Tuesday night, despite being eliminated from postseason play on Monday.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Jayson Werth RF

4. Bryce Harper LF

5. Ian Desmond SS

6. Adam LaRoche 1B

7. Wilson Ramos C

8. Anthony Rendon 2B

9. Gio Gonzalez LHP

BEST BALL

Washington owns Major League Baseball’s best record dating to August 9 (30-13, .698). Since that point, the Nationals lead the National League in runs scored (224) and run differential (+70). The Nationals have won 9 of 10 series since taking three of four at Wrigley Field, August 19-22.

PRODIGIOUS POWER

At the completion of play on September 1, Ryan Zimmerman was tied for 38th in the NL with 15 home runs. In the 21 games since, Zimmerman has hit 11 long balls and is currently tied for fifth in the NL with a team-best 26 homers. Zimmerman’s 11 homers this month are the most in MLB and have established a Nationals record for the month of September. The only National to hit more home runs in any single month was Alfonso Soriano, who slugged 12 in May, 2006.

ROAD LESS TRAVELED

The Nationals are currently 37-39 (.487) on the road this season and must win at least four of the season’s final five contests to register a second consecutive winning record on the road. Washington led MLB with a .593 road winning percentage last season (48-33). The Nationals are 103-92 (.528) on the road under Davey Johnson, who began his tenure with Washington with a 4-3 setback on June 27, 2011 at Los Angeles (AL). The .528 road winning percentage in that span ranks third in MLB behind only the Rangers (.562) and Dodgers (.537).

Let It Rain

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The 2013 season is not yet over. But the dream of defending the National League East crown, of a repeat trip to the postseason has come to an end.

While the end always stings, it did not come as suddenly or unexpectedly as the end of the 2012 season. And while it may have technically ended at the hands of the Cardinals, there wasn’t much of a sense of any connection between the end of last year and the end of this year. It was simply happenstance that the Nationals should make their lone trip to St. Louis at the end of September, after staving off elimination for weeks, and that Cincinnati and Pittsburgh should each squeak out runs against inferior opponents just minutes earlier to create such a scenario.

The odds were stacked against Washington as early as April, when Atlanta built a division lead it would never relinquish. They grew longer with injuries to key cogs in the offense and the rotation, and with the way the National League shook out, a high-80s win total was simply not good enough to knock on October’s door this year.

Though Johnson will not be on the bench next season, he will continue to work with Rizzo to improve the ballclub.

Though Johnson will not be on the bench next season, he will continue to work with Rizzo to improve the ballclub.

“It’s tough,” said Davey Johnson after Monday night’s 4-3 defeat. “You put the uniform on to win, and we didn’t get it done.”

This will be Johnson’s last year in uniform on the bench for Washington, which surely adds to that emotion. But there is solace in knowing that he will be back in the front office next season, helping President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo as the club looks to improve in 2014 and beyond.

“I’m not worried about the organization,” he expressed. “The organization’s in great shape.”

Ian Desmond, who has been the first to stand up and face the media in the wake of any tough loss this season, concurred in his assessment.

“I couldn’t ask to be in a better place, with a better group of guys,” he said.

Even as the national media has portrayed Jayson Werth as the emotional leader of this club, and continued to focus on Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg as the name-brand stars, it was Desmond who stayed consistently, statistically great the past two seasons, no matter what happened around him.

Ian Desmond's consistency and leadership will only strengthen the Nationals moving forward.

Ian Desmond’s consistency and leadership will only strengthen the Nationals moving forward.

His final 2012 line looked like so: .292/.335/.511 with 60 extra-base hits, 21 stolen bases and a team-leading 5.0 fWAR.

With five regular season games remaining in 2013, he’s compiled a .285/.337/.463 line with 61 extra-base hits, 21 steals and a 5.1 fWAR, again best on the club.

“For me personally, I just play the game the way I know how to play the game,” he said Monday night. “I don’t turn the dial up. The dial’s already turned up.”

Desmond’s ability to stay healthy has helped him remain consistent in a year of turbulence. That quality is one that Harper, who remained in his full jersey, sitting at his locker well after the conclusion of the game, looks to draw from heading into the offseason.

“I’ve got to try to be in this lineup every night,” Harper said, looking ahead to next season, referencing time missed due to injury this year.

But before all attention turns to 2014, Washington can still make life tough on these Cardinals. With two more games in St. Louis, the Nationals can go a long way toward determining the pecking order in the NL Central, perhaps pushing the Cards into the one-game Wild Card.

“We’ve got an opportunity to rain on their parade a little,” said Desmond, well aware of the situation.

And so, with that, we’ll say the words that baseball people never dare to speak aloud.

Let it rain.

What to Watch for: 9.15.13

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Philadelphia Phillies (69-79) vs. Washington Nationals (78-70)

RHP Tyler Cloyd (2-4, 4.56) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (17-8, 3.36)

The Nationals saw their season-high seven-game winning streak come to an end Saturday night, but they can still take the series with a Sunday victory over the Phillies in the teams’ final meeting this season. Washington has already claimed the season series and owns a 26-19 record against their closest geographical division rivals under manager Davey Johnson. Jordan Zimmermann takes aim at his National League-leading 18th win against fellow right-hander Tyler Cloyd.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Jayson Werth RF

4. Bryce Harper LF

5. Ian Desmond SS

6. Adam LaRoche 1B

7. Wilson Ramos C

8. Steve Lombardozzi 2B

9. Jordan Zimmermann RHP

ATTENTION: SPAN

Denard Span went 3-for-5 with a career-high three stolen bases to extend his hitting streak to 25 straight games. Over that stretch, he is batting .387 with six walks, five doubles, two triples, two homers, 18 runs scored and seven RBI. Of Span’s eight multi-hit performances during the streak, he has tallied a four-hit game, six three-hit games, and a single two-hit effort. The streak is both the second longest in Major League Baseball this year (Michael Cuddyer, 27 games) and in the nine-year history of the Nationals (Ryan Zimmerman, 30-games, April 8-May 12, 2009).

NAT WERTH

Jayson Werth currently ranks among the National League’s top five in OPS (second, .933), slugging percentage (second, .536), batting average (fourth, .321) and on-base percentage (fifth, .397). Werth joins Andrew McCutchen as the only NL players to rank among the league’s top five in each of those four categories. Werth has hit better than .300 in July (.367), August (.380) and September (.308).

IRON MAN WITH THE MASK

Wilson Ramos has started a Nationals record 22 consecutive games behind the plate. With today’s start in the series finale against the Phillies, he will surpass Cardinals backstop Yadier Molina for the longest stretch of consecutive games started by a catcher in Major League Baseball this season.

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