WASHINGTON -- Though the Nationals rank just 23rd in pitches seen per plate appearance -- 3.77, below the league average of 3.82 -- manager Davey Johnson isn't concerned with his young team's approach.
"I call it being 'patiently aggressive,'" Johnson said. "We leave out the 'patiently' part. The more experience you get, the more you're going to realize that balls out of the strike zone are not balls that you constantly hit hard. Sometimes that takes a little while for a younger player. I would much rather a guy be overly aggressive starting out than not aggressive."
Perhaps no member of the Nationals personifies that mentality more than shortstop Ian Desmond. Though Desmond's 3.33 pitches per plate appearance are the fewest among Nats starters, the 26-year-old remains on his way to a career year. Hitting .265 with a .744 OPS, he has already set a career high in homers, with 11.
"He's going after it. He's not giving [opposing pitchers] any free rides on the first pitch through the last," Johnson said.
"Ian now knows who he is and knows what he has to do to stay playing at a good level. Defensively, he [improved] a lot last year. He was still searching offensively. I think he's more freed up, because it's who he is. Sometimes it takes younger players a while to realize who they are and what their potential is. I think he's right there."
Lombardozzi becoming a reliable outfielder
WASHINGTON -- Steve Lombardozzi's emergence into a capable leadoff hitter has been a pleasant surprise, but his transition into a reliable outfielder might have the largest role in the significant playing time he has been seeing as a rookie.
With two outs and the tying runner on second base in the sixth inning of Wednesday's 3-2 victory over the Rays, Lombardozzi preserved the lead with a diving catch of a shallow fly ball to left off the bat of Jose Molina. The play was highlight reel-worthy in its own right, but with the Nats having lost four straight, a win was critical.
Prior to this season, Lombardozzi had never played in the outfield. He came up through the Minors as an infielder and began the season in a utility role before shifting to left field.
"At first I took a step back, and I realized it was going to be short, so I was hauling my [tail] in, and I was able to come up with the catch," Lombardozzi said. "I kind of turned that play into a web gem myself by making it harder than it should have been."
Once his bat proved steady enough for the top of the lineup, Lombardozzi became the primary leadoff hitter against right-handed pitchers. The 23-year-old switch-hitter is batting .268/.329/.346 with 11 RBIs, though in 25 at-bats against lefties, he is hitting just .120/.214/.160.
Moore's talent resulting in more playing time
WASHINGTON -- Tyler Moore is slowly starting to get some at-bats and playing time. He's also getting used to playing in the outfield as well as first base, and all of those things are helping him help the Nationals.
Moore was a first baseman throughout his career before slowly seeing time in the outfield. He started Thursday's series finale against the Rays at first base after starting in left field on Tuesday.
The bottom line? The rookie is getting to play.
His bat is the biggest reason for that. Moore went into Thursday's finale batting .306. He said that getting into the lineup more is helping him.
"I feel great, being in a rhythm now and just getting pretty consistent at-bats," Moore said. "I'll do anything to help the team."
Moore has helped the team considerably since being recalled on June 7. He's gone 8-for-17 since then with two doubles, two homers, five RBIs, six runs scored and three steals.
Manager Davey Johnson has become a fan.
"He has a great stroke," Johnson said. "I love his stroke. He's short to the ball ... [and] uses the whole field."
Johnson glad he stuck with Strasburg
WASHINGTON -- Manager Davey Johnson thought about pulling Stephen Strasburg from Wednesday's game against the Rays but is glad he didn't.
The Nats had a one-run lead after six innings on a very hot evening. The game-time temperature was 94 degrees, with plenty of humidity, but Strasburg seemed to keep getting stronger.
"[He] didn't throw a whole lot of pitches last night," Johnson said. "He ended up with 99 after six. I liked him over the choices I had for that seventh inning. When he started throwing, like 98 [mph], I said, 'He's still got a little left.'"
Strasburg breezed through the seventh, needing just 12 pitches, and added the final two strikeouts of his 10-K performance.
Drew Storen remains on track for a return around the All-Star break. Storen, who underwent surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow on April 11, is throwing at 85 percent to 90 percent effort in his bullpen sessions.
Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman entered Thursday's series finale needing just six hits to reach 1,000 for his career, but he was mired in a 4-for-36 slump.
Manager Davey Johnson said that Chien-Ming Wang, who was moved from the rotation to the bullpen on Wednesday, had a good throwing session on Thursday. The Nats are trying to work on some mechanical issues that are giving Wang problems with command and location.
Mike Fiammetta is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Jeff Seidel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.