WASHINGTON -- The situation looks bleak right now for the Nationals, who entered Friday's game against the Phillies 15 1/2 games out of first in the National League East and nine back in the Wild Card race. A home sweep to the Braves that ended on Wednesday came as a huge setback, but manager Davey Johnson isn't ready to give up on the season.
"Now's the time everyone's kind of written us off," he said. "Now's a good time to do something special."
The team's sub-.500 play after last year's division title has confounded Johnson and his team, but it hasn't left them accepting their fate.
"There's no resignation in that room over there, and certainly not with me," Johnson said, pointing toward the team's clubhouse. "It's probably more frustrating for me, because I keep searching and keep thinking, 'What can I do to make it easier for the guys to perform?'"
Johnson likes the talent in the organization but talked about the range of factors that have contributed to this season's disappointing performance -- from trying too hard under the pressure of expectations to the struggles of the bench and bullpen.
"Everyone has to contribute," he said. "Myself and everybody around here, we're all partially to blame because we're all not doing the things we're capable of doing. It's very simple."
One thing Johnson isn't worried about is a letdown.
"There's a lot of pride," he said. "I think the makeup will really show itself these last 48 games."
Originally out of lineup, LaRoche a late add
WASHINGTON -- Adam LaRoche was not part of the Nationals' original lineup for Friday's series opener against the Phillies, with Chad Tracy stepping in at first base. But a few hours before first pitch, manager Davey Johnson put LaRoche back in for Tracy, batting sixth.
Johnson said he wanted to give LaRoche a second consecutive day off following Thursday's off-day, but Tracy's stiff neck changed those plans. He also factored in LaRoche's 0-for-15 career line against Phillies left-hander John Lannan.
At the same time, Johnson played down the importance he places on a batter's numbers against a certain pitcher. He recalled how during his playing days, he would get angry at former Orioles manager Earl Weaver for using small sample sizes to determine his lineup.
"I told him you needed 500 chances to be able to predict, plus or minus five percent," Johnson said. "That's called the standard-deviation chart.
"I tell guys, if you're a .300 hitter and you're 0-for-10 off this guy, you're ready to go about 5-for-5. Because water seeks its level. Stats you can use however way you want. So I can build my case why I did something by the numbers, whichever side I want to be on. But basically it comes down to gut feeling."
Detwiler, Ohlendorf making strides in rehab
WASHINGTON -- Manager Davey Johnson had positive news about injured pitchers Ross Detwiler and Ross Ohlendorf on Friday.
Johnson previously had expressed doubt that Detwiler, on the 60-day disabled list with a back strain, could return this season. While Detwiler can't come off the DL until September, Johnson said the left-hander "feels like he's way ahead of schedule."
Detwiler still is not close to throwing, but he was set to run in the outfield on Friday and Saturday.
"Crank it up, let's go," Johnson said. "But we'll be very cautious with him. I would like him to pitch before the year's out, see how he is."
Ohlendorf, on the 15-day DL with right shoulder inflammation, is scheduled to make a rehab start with Triple-A Syracuse on Saturday, with limits of four innings or 65 pitches. Nats players typically complete rehab assignments at an affiliate closer to Washington, but in this case, Syracuse is the only affiliate that has a home game on Saturday.
Ohlendorf threw what Johnson said was a "great" bullpen session on Wednesday. He has been on the DL since Aug. 4, with that move retroactive to Aug. 1.
• Johnson said he's been watching video of demoted reliever Drew Storen's appearances for Syracuse. Storen has scrapped his usual delivery -- which features a stiff front leg -- in favor of one in which he brings his leg up and puts it down. Johnson said Storen showed improvement in his third appearance on Wednesday, when he gave up one run and struck out two over 1 1/3 innings.
"First two outings weren't too good, third outing was a lot better," Johnson said. "He was quicker to the plate, his location was better, stuff was better. He gave up a home run on a changeup, his third-best pitch, but everyone felt like they like where he's at."
• Johnson was part of a team golf outing on Thursday and played with pitchers Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann. While Strasburg was smacking long drives, Johnson said he was hitting the ball a little further than Zimmermann.
"He wasn't real happy about that," Johnson joked. "He started swinging harder. I hope I didn't mess up his shoulder."
• The Nationals drew 27,831 fans to Friday night's game against the Phillies, pushing them past the 2-million mark in attendance for the season, in their 60th home game. That is the fastest the franchise has reached the 2-million mark since Nationals Park opened in 2009.