WASHINGTON -- Before Thursday's game, Nationals manager Davey Johnson thought he was going to watch first baseman Adam LaRoche take early batting practice on the field at 3:30 p.m. ET at Nationals Park, but Johnson was surprised to see as many nine players taking early batting practice, which was a good sign as far as Johnson was concerned.
Entering Thursday's action, the Nationals were near the bottom of the National League in offense and Johnson decided to add a spark by placing Steve Lombardozzi second and Jayson Werth fourth in the batting order, while putting Anthony Rendon on the bench.
Lombardozzi had been productive coming off the bench this season, going 10-for-29 (.345) with three RBIs entering Thursday's action. When second baseman Danny Espinosa was out of the lineup because of a hand injury last week, Lombardozzi went 7-for-21 (.333) with three RBIs.
Asked why Lombardozzi was playing third base instead of second base, Johnson said he still believes in Espinosa, who is off to a slow start, going 9-for-58 (.155) with a home run and three RBIs.
"We need to get Espinosa going. It's his birthday [Thursday]," Johnson said. "My main concern is to get guys going."
Johnson said he takes full responsibility for the losses and goes to be bed late at night trying to figure out how to help the team win.
"I think I'm not doing what I need to do to make it more comfortable for guys," Johnson said. "With this group, it more about waiting for everybody getting comfortable. … Waiting for all that to start feeling more relaxing for guys to get quality at-bats.
"Rather than throwing the whole bench in the lineup and a bunch of different things, which I call over-managing, let [most of the regulars] go play. They are all so motivated anyway, it's almost like I don't want to push them. It's always baseball season. I'm always up in the middle of the night trying to dream up something. I like the ballclub. It's such a long haul."
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.