MIAMI -- Nationals manager Davey Johnson isn't a big proponent of team meetings, but he called a brief one Wednesday afternoon with his club mired in a five-game losing streak, tied for its longest of the season.
Johnson said the seven-minute meeting in the visitors' clubhouse at Marlins Park was mostly fun and encouraging, and he wanted to remind his players that he was happy with their effort despite the results.
Johnson, who last called a team meeting way back in May, admitted the offense "has taken a nap" in scoring six runs over those five games, but he doesn't want his players to start pressing.
"When you lose, it's harder on the coaches and the manager. We don't sleep as well. If they start winning a few games, it'll make it easier on this old guy," Johnson said he told the team. "We all got a good laugh out of it and everything. It was a nice, fun meeting. I don't hold a lot of them, as you know. That way, maybe you guys think I'm doing my job.
"Sometimes it's nice for them to hear it from me as a group. They hear it from me individually all the time, but I think it's nice to sometimes tell them all en masse.
"I didn't even have any idea what I was going to say until I got in there. Sometimes it's nice just to have a fun meeting. Short, sweet, to the point. I know I probably held their attention span since it was only seven minutes. If you go over 10, you might lose it."
There isn't a great deal of concern about the losing streak inside the Nats' clubhouse, either. After Tuesday night's loss, first baseman Adam LaRoche admitted the Nats didn't have "the highest of spirits," but that's a natural product of losing five games in a row, especially for a club that hasn't endured many significant losing streaks this year.
If anything, LaRoche said, they can still look back and be pleased with what they did the rest of the season to this point.
"To be honest, when is a better time to lose five in a row? I mean, we're still in first place," added shortstop Ian Desmond. "If this is as bad as we can play, it's only going to get better."
Harper's emotions lead to first career ejection
MIAMI -- Bryce Harper had very little reason to be upset in the ninth inning Wednesday night. He'd already hit two home runs, the Nationals were on their way to an 8-4 win and he'd clearly been thrown out at first base to complete a double play.
But Harper slammed down his helmet after hustling down the line, and first-base umpire CB Bucknor immediately ejected the 19-year-old rookie, the first time Harper has been tossed as a Major Leaguer.
"I thought there was one out, and I tossed my helmet down," Harper said afterward. "I shouldn't have done it, but I don't like hitting into double plays. ... I don't know. I just need to stop getting [ticked] off and just live with it, and there's nothing you can change. I just need to grow up in that mentality a little bit. Try not to bash stuff in and things like that I've always done my whole life, and those need to change."
Davey Johnson wasn't pleased with Harper's response to getting called out, and the manager talked to him afterward.
"He expects great things out of himself. He breaks bats, throws his helmet. He's just got to stop it," Johnson said. "Can't afford to be losing him in a ballgame with that. He'll learn. He's young.
"It was done, and he's wrong in doing that. He's wrong in breaking his bats. He's wrong in throwing his helmet down in frustration. It's just, like I say, [he's a] 100 percenter. He's full bore. When he doesn't like the outcome, he shows it off that way. It's just a learning experience. He'll be fine. I'm not worried about him."
Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman echoed Johnson's sentiment, saying nothing the rookie has done is malicious -- just that it's immature, and everyone around him has already learned not to act out that way.
"A bad decision to begin with, but those are the things that he has to learn, and I guess you can only have that excuse for so long, but he usually learns from his mistakes," Zimmerman said. "He knows he needs to stop. Everyone knows he needs to stop.
"You can't do that kind of stuff. I think he knows that. He lets his emotions take over sometimes, and I think Davey, Davey's good with that stuff. ... Now that the principal kind of tells him to stop, hopefully he'll stop. But that's the kind of player he is. He plays hard."
Strasburg sticks around, puts in work after rough start
MIAMI -- Stephen Strasburg had a long night on the mound Tuesday, and it turned out to be a late night at Marlins Park, as well.
After getting hit around by Miami and giving up a career-high seven runs, Strasburg had "an old-fashioned sitdown" with catcher Kurt Suzuki, pitching coach Steve McCatty and bench coach Randy Knorr, according to Nationals manager Davey Johnson.
They met to discuss what went wrong for Strasburg as he scattered nine hits over 5 1/3 innings. And after the meeting, Johnson said, McCatty sent Strasburg a text message to look at what happened to Tigers ace Justin Verlander on Tuesday night.
Verlander had an even worse night, getting rocked for eight runs on 12 hits over 5 2/3 innings. As Johnson said, "It can happen to anyone."
"Stras just was a little off and getting behind. ... He'll be fine," Johnson said. "He and Suzuki and 'Cat and Randy Knorr, I think they closed down this place last night. ... That was interesting to hear."
Strasburg said after the game that he didn't throw enough first-pitch strikes and admitted it was "probably not a good thing" that he didn't change his approach with runners on base, a mentality that allowed the slow-footed Carlos Lee to steal second base without a throw from Suzuki.
"I've got to remember there's a guy on base, and I have to keep my times different and pick over a couple times," Strasburg said Tuesday night. "There's no excuses."
Strasburg also noticed the Marlins were waiting on his fastball inside, then taking it to the opposite field, but he didn't make any adjustments himself.
"I just kept on trying to do the same thing, and they were cheating, cheating -- and they got me," he said. "Just got to remember to trust my stuff, and next time out I've got to go out there and really just read what I see and pitch to it, basically."
Rendon leads Nats' contingent in AFL
MIAMI -- The Arizona Fall League rosters were announced Wednesday, and former first-round Draft pick Anthony Rendon headlines the class of young players the Nationals will send to the Salt River Rafters.
Rendon, currently hitting .163 with a .293 on-base percentage and .327 slugging percentage in 14 games with Double-A Harrisburg, was the No. 6 overall pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. He'll be joined there by outfielder Brian Goodwin, infielder Jason Martinson and right-handed pitchers Paul Demny, Christian Garcia and Ryan Perry. Washington will also send a pitcher and infielder to be announced. Rendon and Perry are the only Fall Leaguers on the Nats' 40-man roster.
They will be managed by D-backs third-base coach Matt Williams, and Nationals rehab coordinator Mark Grater will serve as the Salt River Rafters' pitching coach.
Goodwin is hitting .219 in 37 games with Harrisburg after posting a .324 average and .979 OPS in 58 games with Class A Hagerstown earlier this season. Martinson, a "taxi squad" member who will only be activated Wednesdays and Saturdays in the Fall League, is a shortstop who has split his season between Hagerstown and Class A Advanced Potomac, posting a combined .254/.349/.445 line.
Demny and Perry are both pitching for Harrisburg, and Perry has posted a 2.82 ERA in 12 starts after struggling as a reliever with the Nationals and Triple-A Syracuse. Garcia has posted a 1-1 record, 0.61 ERA and 11 saves in 24 appearances for Triple-A Syracuse this season.