WASHINGTON -- Had the result been different, Nationals manager Davey Johnson surely wouldn't have been viewing his club's inability to put a runner past first base on Thursday as merely a flashback to earlier in the year.
Two home runs, including a walk-off blast to left field by Jayson Werth after a 13-pitch ninth-inning at-bat, was all the offense the Nats produced in a 2-1 National League Division Series Game 4 win over the Cardinals. With only one other hit all night -- Ryan Zimmerman singled in the fourth -- Washington never put a runner in scoring position, let alone past first base.
But with Werth pushing the Nats into position to clinch an NL Championship Series berth on Friday, Johnson adopted a broader perspective on what could've been a critical failure by his batters.
"It kind of reminded me of the first half [of the season]; we had good pitching, but our offense was sputtering," Johnson said. "We were missing Werth and missing [Michael] Morse and a lot of the young guys were playing, and we would scratch out a win some way."
Indeed, that seems to have been the recipe for the Nats' standing in this series. In the first four games, Washington was just 3-for-24 (.125) with runners in scoring position. St. Louis, by comparison, is 8-for-37 (.216).
The "scratching out wins" explanation is even more appropriate considering the weak outings by the Nats' starters. Ross Detwiler's six innings of three-hit, one-unearned-run ball on Thursday amounted to the team's best start by far, and even then it took Werth's late-inning heroics to squeak out a win.
"The first three games were not indicative of what we did the whole year, because our strength has always been our starting pitching keeping us in ballgames, and then getting key hits to win games," Johnson said.
"That's this time of year; when you have good pitching, you hold down good hitting, and I was glad to see that we finally started doing what we are capable of doing yesterday."