05/01/2013 10:49 PM ET
Nats look to Lombardozzi for a spark on offense
By Jon Cooper / Special to MLB.com
ATLANTA -- His team mired in an offensive slump and still unable to call upon two of his biggest stars, Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth, manager Davey Johnson decided to try something a little different to get the offense going on Wednesday.
That something was left-handed-hitting second baseman Steve Lombardozzi, who batted second against Atlanta lefty Paul Maholm.
"I'm kind of searching for guys that will battle to get on early in front of [Bryce Harper] and the rest of the guys," said Johnson. "Lombo has had pretty good success against Maholm getting on base. So we're in a little rut right now. Let's change it up.
"Lombo is a blue-collar worker. He's going to go out there and grind every minute of the day. He'll grind to get on base and do the little things that help you win ballgames. I need him more to kind of help ignite this offense. Get it going."
Lombardozzi, who is hitting .244, is a career .667 hitter against Maholm, albeit in a very limited sampling -- he's 2-for-3. The Nationals were shut out over 7 2/3 innings by Maholm on April 14 at Nationals Park, managing only four hits, one of them by Lombardozzi.
Johnson is looking to jump-start an offense that scored three runs over the first two games of the series, five during the current three-game losing streak and 12 over the last five games, though six of those came in one game. With the Nationals at 13-14, second in the National League East and 4 1/2 games behind the Braves, Johnson hopes a new month and a new look can recapture the form of last season's team.
"We didn't play any aspect of the game like we're capable of playing," said Johnson. "Our pitching hasn't been as consistent as it should be, offense hasn't been as consistent. So maybe it's a wakeup call. That's the way I look at it."
He also hopes that a night off for regular second baseman Danny Espinosa will help him get out of a 2-for-12 slump that has lowered his average to .173. Espinosa went 1-for-8 in the first two games of the series and is hitless in his last six trips to the plate.
"Sometimes he gets into looking for something and trying to do too much with it, instead of looking for something he can hit hard," said Johnson. "He's trying to make something happen. That doesn't always work in your favor. I think sometimes just a change is good. It's not like it's the end of the world. He'll be fine."
Johnson also started rookie Anthony Rendon at third base over the veteran Chad Tracy, who started the series' first two games, going 2-for-7, but was 0-for-3 on Tuesday night.
Lombardozzi batted second, Rendon seventh.
Shelved Werth better but still not ready
ATLANTA -- Tuesday's rest did outfielder Jayson Werth some good, but not enough to get him a spot in Wednesday's lineup.
Werth is battling cramping in his right hamstring as well as a sore left ankle after fouling a ball off the ankle in the eighth inning of Monday's game.
"You don't get the sense that [the ankle] is broken or that there's anything structurally wrong with it," Werth said.
Werth said that it is easily the worst experience with a foul ball he's ever had but that the impact of the ball could have been a lot more damaging.
"[The] doc yesterday said there's a series of nerves that run right through there," he said. "A quarter inch either way, it would have been even worse, because there's a tendon or a big vein that runs right there. Had it got one of those, it would have been worse."
Werth wasn't sure whether he could pinch-hit on Wednesday but knows he'll need a shin guard the next time he steps to the plate.
"Oh, I would have to wear a guard now," he said. "If I hit it again, I'd be in trouble. But I've worn shin guards before, so it's not a big deal."
Manager Davey Johnson is more concerned about Werth further aggravating the hamstring than the ankle, especially with the imminent return of third baseman Ryan Zimmerman.
"A bad bruise on the ankle is something that probably won't get much worse. It's probably hard to run, probably hard to land on," said Johnson. "But a tight hamstring, you can pull it and you could be out for a couple of weeks. That's something I don't want to take a chance on. I don't want him to go down right when Ryan comes back. So I'm kind of being cautious on that."
The Nationals on Wednesday started Bryce Harper in right field and Tyler Moore in left, the same corner outfield alignment they employed on Tuesday.
No discomfort for Stras following bullpen session
ATLANTA -- Stephen Strasburg threw a bullpen session prior to Wednesday night's game and felt no discomfort, according to manager Davey Johnson.
"[Pitching coach Steve McCatty] was real pleased," said Johnson, "and Stras, as hard as he is to please himself, was pretty pleased, too."
Cameraman dies despite efforts of Nats' trainers
ATLANTA -- Reuben Porras, a local cameraman, suffered a heart attack in an off-field media room at Turner Field on Wednesday and passed away later in the evening at a local hospital.
Nationals head trainer Lee Kuntz and assistant strength and conditioning coach John Hsu stepped in to help the 61-year-old Porras and were able to initially revive him. The two used an automated external defibrillator and performed CPR before the paramedics arrived. According to Mark Zuckerman of CSN Washington, Kuntz was informed of Porras' death sometime after the game started.
Kuntz also told Zuckerman that the entire training staff is trained in CPR but that this was the first time he'd had to perform it at the ballpark.
Jon Cooper is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.