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May 9, 2013

On the Beat

No-Hitting Nationals

by John Perrotto


Davey Johnson doesn’t believe in team meetings. The 70-year-old Nationals manager is old school in that regard, preferring to informally chat with the players on his team when he needs to communicate a message. However, Johnson felt the urge to call a team meeting last weekend with his Nationals standing at 15-15 after 30 games, a far cry from where they were expected to be after winning 98 games last season, more than any team in the major leagues. Johnson’s message was simply to tell his players to relax.

“You could tell that everyone was trying too hard,” Johnson said. “Everyone was trying to do too much, trying to be the hero in every at-bat or with every pitch. Sometimes you just need to step back and let the game come to you. Our guys were trying to force things.”

The message apparently has been received. The Nationals have won three games in a row since the meeting, and five of their last six, to move three games over .500. The mood has become appreciably lighter.

“You can feel things starting to turn,” second baseman Danny Espinosa said. “We’re playing a lot better and a lot looser. Last year, we played with such great confidence, and it kept building and building as the year went on. I think we’re starting to get that confidence back.”

The Nationals never fell below .500 last season. After splitting their first four games, they won 12 of their next 14, and that set the tone. The Nationals are seemingly a better team this season after signing right-hander Dan Haren and closer Rafael Soriano as free agents in the offseason, and there is a sense that the best is yet to come.

“I still don’t feel like we’re playing as well as we can,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said. “The pitching is not as good as it’s going to be, and we’re not hitting the way we can. I really think we’re in a pretty good spot in that we have a decent record despite the way we’ve played. “

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<< Previous Article
Baseball Therapy: Shou... (05/09)
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Premium Article On the Beat: Minnesota... (05/02)
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Premium Article On the Beat: The Most ... (05/16)
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