WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- With hopeful expectations of merely earning a wild card bid, the 2012 Washington Nationals never had to deal with the scrutiny that has all of a sudden whisked its way into their faces.
A loss Wednesday afternoon to the Cardinals will put manager Davey Johnson's ballclub under .500, a place most members of the team thought they wouldn't see all season.
"Pitching was our mainstay [last season]. It's been tough waiting," said the reigning National League Manager of the year.
Tuesday evening, Johnson showed some anger in his press conference, promising lineup changes and saying twice "it's time to get mad." But one day later the Nats skipper has calmed his demeanor.
"To me, it's always mental in this game," said Johnson. "You can always find things that are cause and effect."
Johnson jokingly said he thought about calling a team meeting -- simply because his ace Stephen Strasburg was on the mound. He spoke of several old managers that used to do perform 'ra-ra' speeches to rally the troops. With a dominant starting pitcher the likelihood of winning would increase, making the manager look smart. But he decided against it.
"I don't like team meetings. I never have. I communicate more individually. I have a high boiling point. We're not quite there yet," Johnson reiterated before Wednesday's series finale against St. Louis.
One lineup change did occur. The cause is Adam LaRoche, who is 1-for-17 at the plate in his last five games, including four whiffs Tuesday against the Cardinals. Johnson has displeasure in sitting a player after a bad game, but admitted it's a "mental break" for LaRoche. The effect is Tyler Moore joining the lineup.
"Hopefully we get this thing rolling and get it together. Davey's been through this so many times. It's so early in the season, it's ridiculous," said Moore. "We are just going to keep trying and hopefully get some wins."
One lineup change many have been clamoring for is at second base. Danny Espinosa, who started last season just as slow, looks amiss at the plate. Meanwhile his backup Steve Lombardozzi shined during his starting role in the Miami series -- 6-for-14, with two doubles and two RBI's.
Those who know the Nationals well have recognized Johnson's admiration for Espinosa's play. Johnson thinks a matchup against St. Louis lefty Jamie Garcia could awaken Espinosa from the right side of the plate.
"[Danny's] a very deep thinker. Sometimes the thinker gets in his own way. Basically we just have to be a little patient."
What it boils down to is that Johnson still wants to be himself. He wants his players to be themselves. Changing his philosophy in late April to become more hands on could be more detrimental in the long run. He wants to let his players figure out their struggles on their own. The Nats are content in riding out this current storm with Davey, hoping last season's dominant pitching returns sooner rather than later.