Rest not likely for Nats' regulars down the stretch

Rest not likely for Nats' regulars down the stretch

NEW YORK -- Many of the Nationals' key position players have fought tooth and nail with manager Davey Johnson this season, resisting days off. To avoid any more conflict, Johnson figures he'll keep all his regulars happy and in the starting lineup the rest of the way.

"I've got some guys that are just iron men out there," Johnson said. "The middle of my diamond, the center fielder, the second baseman, the shortstop, they don't want to come out. They fight me. They hate me when I take them out."

The Nationals entered Monday's series opener against the Mets with a 5 1/2-game National League East lead on the second-place Braves, with a three-game series in Atlanta looming this weekend. The Nats have had a comfortable lead in the division since taking two of three from the Braves in late August, but don't figure to be taking their foot off the gas.

Johnson has noted that outfielder Bryce Harper hates getting a day off, and the same goes for infielder Danny Espinosa. The Nationals also are operating with their full complement of healthy players, which has not been the case most of the season.

"I don't think Espinosa's forgiven me for giving him a day off, and I love that," Johnson said. "I never wanted to come out of the lineup, even if I had a broken hand. I wanted to be in that lineup, especially this time of year, going into this last 20 games."