WASHINGTON -- Entering Saturday's action against the Phillies, Nationals outfielder Roger Bernadina was 28-for-79 (.354) with a .457 on-base percentage in his last 32 games, raised his overall batting average to .300.
Manager Davey Johnson sees a difference in the Bernadina now versus the player who hit .243 in 2011.
"[Compared] to last year, he shortened his stroke. He is more direct to the ball. He is having the pitcher throw the ball in the strike zone better," Johnson said. "He is just a much more mature hitter."
Bernadina has spent most of this season as the team's fourth outfielder. In 2010, Bernadina was an everyday player, but slumped badly during the second half of the season after tiring.
Asked if Bernadina could return to being an everyday player again, Johnson said, "He certainly has the talent for it. He does everything well. I talk about a players' tools. He has five tools. He was out [for almost one full year because of the broken ankle]. He is capable of being a regular again."
Johnson: New Wild Card format tough on skippers
PHILADELPHIA -- The new playoff format that goes into effect this season is sure to be a hit among fans, who get to see one more team in the postseason mix and plenty more fighting for the additional Wild Card spot.
Just don't count Davey Johnson among those who like the new format.
The skipper of the first-place Nats is not a proponent of the new system, which requires teams to win their division if they want to have a guaranteed spot in the Division Series. The two Wild Card teams from each league will meet in a one-game playoff to determine who faces the team with the best record in each league in the Division Series.
"Everybody was all ranting and raving about how wonderful another Wild Card is," Johnson said. "The way I looked at it, it was the worst thing that could happen. The only Wild Card didn't make any difference back then because you were right in the playoffs. Now you have [the one-game] playoff. It really eliminated, to me, the choices on what you had. You need to win the pennant."
The Nationals own not only the best record in the National League, but the best mark in baseball. If the season were to have ended before Saturday's game, they'd open the first round -- on the road as the top seed (this year only, due to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement) -- against either the Cardinals or Braves.
The Giants and Reds would play in the other Division Series.
With a 6 1/2-game lead on the second-place Braves, the Nationals have a great chance of avoiding the Wild Card predicament, which would also mean avoiding burning the team's No. 1 starter in the one-game playoff. But that doesn't mean the thought hasn't occurred to Johnson.
"It's all about matchups, but you want to play good enough during the year so you're in the first round of the playoffs, period," Johnson said. "Not a [one-game] playoff. I did the math when it first came out, and I said I really don't like that added Wild Card. ... The Wild Card was like winning the pennant. Now, there's a playoff. That ain't nothing. One game? Flip a coin. Burn your ace. That's just the worst possible scenario. Maybe it's good for fans in other towns, but as far as managers, we cringe at the thought of another Wild Card."
Morse sits out day after hand gets hit by pitch
PHILADELPHIA -- Outfielder Michael Morse was not able to play against the Phillies on Saturday after being hit on the right hand by a Kyle Kendrick pitch the day before. X-rays were negative, and Morse is considered day to day.
Morse did not take batting practice and is not expected to play until Tuesday against the Marlins. After Saturday's 4-2 loss to the Phillies, Morse was seen with a soft cast on is right hand.
Morse said before the game that his hand hurts when he grips a bat.
"We are probably on a day-to-day basis," manager Davey Johnson said before Saturday's loss. "It's going to be up to Michael. He got hit pretty good."
Left-handers giving Harper trouble this season
WASHINGTON -- Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper is having problems against left-handed pitching, entering play Saturday going 33-for-149 (.221) with four home runs and 14 RBIs vs. southpaws.
Manager Davey Johnson said he thought about resting Harper against lefties, but it hasn't entered Harper's mind to sit on the bench against southpaws. He will play against Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee on Sunday.
Johnson said that opposing lefties are feeding Harper a steady diet of offspeed pitches outside the strike zone, and Harper keeps swinging at them.
"He gets impatient and he is his own worst enemy," Johnson said about Harper. "[Lefties] made adjustments challenging him with a little more offspeed stuff. His impatience is chasing stuff out of the zone. But that is part of maturing as a hitter. You have to make a adjustments in this level when they are attacking you. Sometimes, it's like an open book. You are too stubborn to read the book."
Johnson believes the blockbuster trade between the Dodgers and Red Sox is a good deal for the Dodgers. Los Angeles acquired first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, pitcher Josh Beckett, infielder Nick Punto and outfielder Carl Crawford. The Red Sox received big league first baseman James Loney and a package of prospects: infielder Ivan DeJesus, Jr., right hander Allen Webster, and two players to be named.
"I think it will help the Dodgers and it might help Boston," Johnson said. "I think [Boston] general manager [Ben Cherington] just wants to be in a rebuilding mode, and I understand that, too. ... I didn't think [the trade] wouldn't fly, but it's a good move for the Dodgers. I thought it was too much money involved, especially with this economy. They worry about the about the bottom line. ... The Dodgers are going all in trying to catch the Giants."
Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.