Nationals need production at No. 2

By Tom Schad | Associate Reporter

At 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nationals manager Davey Johnson had an epiphany. He called Ian Desmond and told the shortstop that he would be swapping spots in the lineup with right fielder Jayson Werth. Desmond would hit second, Werth sixth.

When asked why he made the switch, Johnson didn’t have much of an answer.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Because I’m supposed to do something.”

On Thursday, Desmond and Werth went a combined 6-for-7 with four runs scored. On Friday, they went 4-for-8.

“I like the energy Desi brings down there,” Johnson said, “and Jayson seems to relish where he’s hitting, too.”

It was a subtle change, but an important one. Entering Friday’s game, the Nationals had gotten the least production out of the No. 2 spot in the order in club history. No. 2 hitters are batting .222 this year with a .268 on-base percentage and a .608 OPS. Since the franchise arrived in Washington in 2005, those marks rank second to last, last and last in team history.

Johnson said Friday that this lineup probably isn’t permanent, but it should be. Desmond, a career .273 hitter, has hit .285 in the No. 2 spot while in the Majors. Werth’s average in the No. 2 hole, however, is significantly lower than his career norm. When he bats second, his average is .243 compared to .268 overall.

Johnson admits that Werth has a different approach when he hits lower in the lineup.

“I think he likes that. I think he also likes the fact that five or six, you generally have a lot of guys on,” Johnson said. “He’s more aggressive when he’s in that spot. And I like that about him.”

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