7/4/2013 5:40 P.M. ET
Desmond, Werth swap spots in Nats' lineup
By Tom Schad and Andrew Simon / MLB.com
WASHINGTON -- After the Nationals scored a total of one run in their previous two games, manager Davey Johnson switched up his lineup for Thursday's series finale against the Brewers. Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth swapped spots in the order, with Desmond moving up to second and Werth down to sixth.
The move worked perfectly, as Desmond and Werth were big contributors to the 8-5 win. Desmond went 3-for-4 with a walk, two runs and two steals, and Werth was 3-for-3 with a walk, RBI single, two runs and a steal.
Was there some grand piece of logic or inspiration that led Johnson to such a decision? Well, not quite.
"I don't know," Johnson said when asked why he did it, "because I'm supposed to do something."
After Wednesday's 4-1 defeat, Johnson was at a loss to explain how his club scored 23 runs combined on Sunday and Monday, only to fall right back into offensive ineptitude. He didn't have much more of an explanation during Thursday's pregame press conference but showed his sense of humor about the situation, cracking several one-liners.
On what he told Desmond Wednesday night when he called the shortstop to inform him of the "epiphany" he had about the lineup switch: "I said, 'Don't change nothing, just keep hacking. Keep the fan on.'"
On not explaining the switch to Werth: "He'll figure it out -- that I'm an idiot."
On his continuing search for the right lineup: "I thought about just throwing a bunch of names in a hat and picking them out, but I'm not at that point yet."
Desmond made his fifth start this season in the No. 2 hole, with the others coming from May 3-8. Werth had filled the spot since Bryce Harper came off the disabled list on Monday, bumping rookie Anthony Rendon down to seventh.
Johnson didn't directly answer a question about the possibility of moving Rendon and his .357 on-base percentage back to the second spot, instead he mostly struggled to wrap his mind around the Nationals' persistent inability to string together solid offensive performances.
The Nats are tied for second in the Majors with nine shutouts against them. They are second in games scoring one run or fewer (23) and two runs or fewer (37) to the Marlins.
"I don't know. I don't have the answers," Johnson said. "I still love this ballclub. I still like the talent. I like the makeup. My Ouija board, I'm having a problem with it. It seems like when we hit, we all hit, and when we don't, we don't hit. But everything is cyclical and we've been in that cycle for a long time. I think it's time to come out of it and be more normal."
Asked about the impact of lineup construction, something advanced statistical analysis has shown to be relatively unimportant, Johnson referenced the work of Earnshaw Cook, a pioneer in the field of sabermetrics. He mentioned Cook's influential book Percentage Baseball and the importance of looking at players' on-base percentage and OPS.
"I think you divide players into two different categories: table-setters and run-producers, and constructing a lineup so it's hard to match up your bullpen to it, not making it easy," Johnson said. "Statistics tell you a lot, and then your baseball instincts, about where they should hit."
Ramos returns to Nats after hamstring strain
WASHINGTON -- Catcher Wilson Ramos returned to the Nationals as expected on Thursday after missing the last 44 games with a strained left hamstring. Manager Davey Johnson immediately inserted the 25-year-old into the starting lineup, in the No. 8 spot with right-hander Taylor Jordan on the mound.
Ramos mad his presence felt in a big way in the 8-5 Fourth of July win over the Brewers, going 3-for-4 with a career-high five RBIs, including a go-ahead three-run homer in the seventh.
After being kidnapped before the 2012 season in his native Venezuela, tearing his anterior cruciate ligament last year and twice landing on the disabled list this season with the hamstring strain, Ramos is ecstatic to finally be back in Washington.
"Yeah, it was a long rehab for me. Not as long as last year, but still long," he said. "I'm excited to be back, especially in this moment, with these games, the team hitting the ball, they're playing good. But for me, I think I can help the team a little bit, and I will try to do my best effort to help the team."
Entering Thursday, Ramos was hitting .250 in 48 at-bats this season with three doubles, two home runs and six RBIs. His replacements, Kurt Suzuki and Jhonatan Solano, are hitting .224 and .167, respectively. Solano was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse to clear a spot for Ramos on the roster.
"The last couple years has been really tough on him, starting from the kidnapping and then twisting his knee on a ball he went to pick up 15 feet behind home plate, and then the hamstring," Johnson said. "But hopefully he's good to go, and hopefully he won't have any more problems."
Ramos said his hamstring has felt fine for more than two weeks now. He received constant treatment at the team's training facility in Viera, Fla., and strengthened the muscle by exercising in a pool.
Ramos went 0-for-10 in three rehab games at Class A Potomac earlier this week, but said that he spent more time concentrating on his defense and running than he spent at the plate. He also admitted that he is somewhat concerned about straining the hamstring for a third time.
"It's a little bit hard, because I'm a little bit scared to get hurt again," Ramos said. "But you know right now I'm mentally 100 percent hard, strong. I don't want to think about that. I want to go out there and play hard and try to give my best effort."
Jordan won't be tipping pitches anymore
WASHINGTON -- Right-hander Taylor Jordan was tipping his pitches in his first Major League start, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
Adam LaRoche first noticed the trend, according to the source, and he told the right-hander and manager Davey Johnson about it. LaRoche said before Jordan started Thursday's game against the Brewers that the rookie has fixed the problem, but LaRoche will continue to keep an eye on him.
"I just informed him of what I saw and tried to explain that, up here, you're not going to get away with that for long. There's too many scouts, there's too many different video angles now and people looking for it," LaRoche said. "We've got guys constantly looking for pitchers tipping stuff, so I'm sure he's corrected it. He said he thought about it in the past and caught it in the past and just didn't feel himself falling back into it."
Jordan was solid in Thursday's 8-5 win over Milwaukee, as he allowed two runs on six hits and no walks with three strikeouts and left with a 5-2 lead after 5 2/3 innings. He didn't receive a decision because the bullpen blew his lead.
Mets rookie Zack Wheeler, who the Nationals faced in Sunday's 13-2 win, was also reportedly tipping his pitches. When asked about how often players catch those tips, LaRoche was frank.
"More often than you think," he said. "There's a handful of players I think on every team -- I say that because it's every team I've been on -- that are really good at picking that stuff up.
"It's a big part of the game. That's why I tell our young guys all the time, it's completely different now. You're playing the same game, but you've got a lot more eyeballs on you here."
Storen allows rare home runs to righties
WASHINGTON -- Drew Storen's performance against the Brewers on Thursday was uncharacteristic for the right-hander and highly frustrating for manager Davey Johnson.
Storen blew his fourth save but actually picked up his third win after giving up three runs in the seventh inning to allow the Brewers to tie the game. Wilson Ramos' three-run home run in the bottom of the inning took a lot of the focus off Storen's second consecutive poor outing. On Tuesday, he surrendered four runs in the eighth to snap a scoreless tie against Milwaukee.
The uncharacteristic aspect of Storen's appearance on Thursday was the home runs he served up to Yuniesky Betancourt and Carlos Gomez. They became the first right-handed hitters to homer off Storen since the Braves' Dan Uggla on Aug. 1, 2011. In between, Storen appeared in 96 games and threw 86 1/3 innings, and this year he was holding righties to a .316 slugging percentage.
Johnson's frustration stemmed from the approach behind Betancourt's solo shot and Gomez's two-run blast.
"I have all the confidence in Storen, and Storen's trying to trick people instead of just making his pitches. But maybe that will be a good learning game," Johnson said.
Both homers came on offspeed pitches with two strikes. Storen left a 2-2 changeup up and in to Betancourt, and hung an 0-2 slider right down the middle to Gomez.
According to Johnson, that's not the sort of thing Storen was doing during a streak of nine consecutive scoreless outings that ended on Tuesday.
"By and large he was just keeping his two-seamer down and locating that," Johnson said. "Occasionally he'd throw a get-me-over curveball to a left-hander to get ahead, but by and large it was his fastball.
"Up until that point, he has a tendency to overpower and try to trick people. He doesn't have to trick people with that stuff. Like I said, hopefully he'll learn, because he shook off a bunch of times today to get to a hanging changeup and a hanging breaking ball."
• Left-hander Matt Purke, the Nationals' No. 9-ranked prospect according to MLB.com, made his debut with Class A Advanced Potomac on Wednesday and pitched five solid innings against Winston-Salem. He gave up one run on four hits, walked two and struck out two.
Washington's third-round pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft had a 2.48 ERA over six starts at Class A Hagerstown after shoulder problems limited him to three games last season, his first as a professional. The Rangers took Purke 14th overall in the 2009 Draft, but he attended TCU instead of joining Texas.
Tom Schad is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Schad. Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @HitTheCutoff. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.