Johnson discusses Nats’ hard-fought, extra-inning win

FLUSHING, N.Y. - For much of tonight’s game, the Nationals couldn’t touch whoever was standing on the mound for the Mets, Chris Young or otherwise.

After the first inning, which featured a two-run homer from Bryce Harper, the Nats went seven straight innings without a hit and went eight innings without getting on the scoresheet.

Then, they finally broke through in a big way in the 10th, pounding out six runs and grooving to an 8-2 win.

“It was nice that the bats woke up,” said a muted Davey Johnson after tonight’s game.

Harper delivered the game-winning single to right in the 10th, but the Nats weren’t done after that as Ryan Zimmerman crushed a three-run double and Michael Morse followed with a mammoth two-run homer to center.

The offensive explosion was nice, Johnson just would’ve liked to have seen more of it come earlier in the game when Jordan Zimmermann was still dealing. Today marked the sixth straight time that Zimmermann has taken the mound in which he’s allowed one earned run or fewer.

zimmermann-red-throw-sidebar.jpgThe righty now has the fifth best ERA in the majors at 2.31. He’s delivered ten straight quality starts. His ERA is 0.95 ERA since June 5. He wasn’t able to notch his eighth win of the season, but at least Zimmermann’s team was able to improve to 3-0 over the Mets in extra-inning games this year.

“Jordan was his usual self,” manager Davey Johnson said. “He pitched a great ballgame and our offense didn’t wake up until the rain stopped in about the seventh inning. Another good one from Jordan, it’s just a shame we couldn’t save it for him.”

Zimmermann’s shot at a win evaporated in the seventh inning. Johnson pulled him after six frames and turned things over to the bullpen, but Michael Gonzalez surrendered a homer to Ike Davis which knotted the game at 2-2.

Johnson said after the game that he was hooking Zimmermann after six innings regardless of where things stood, and the fact that the pitcher was due to hit in the seventh didn’t factor in at all.

“He’s had a pretty heavy workload and it was one of those nights where it was rainy and the footing wasn’t real great,” Johnson said. “There was no sense in me pushing him. We had a fresh bullpen, comparatively from over the weekend. I felt good that we could hold the lead.”

They didn’t, and Johnson admitted he still isn’t completely certain how to handle things in late-game situations in which the Nats have a lead.

“I’m still organizing the bullpen to where I’m comfortable with it,” Johnson said. “I don’t want to constantly put the heat on (Sean) Burnett and (Tyler) Clippard. I have a lot of confidence in all the guys out there, I just need to get them in a little more lineups here I feel comfortable with them and they feel comfortable.”

Johnson pointed out the Nats’ inability to twice get down a sacrifice bunt (Sandy Leon and Mark DeRosa both failed in that department), saying, “Those things can cost you ballgames,” and also seemed frustrated with his offense’s inability to get much going against the soft-tossing Young. But the Nats did scratch out their third straight win and put more ground between themselves and the second-place Braves, who lost tonight.

“Sometimes the rough weekend with all the workload, guys were a little sluggish up there,” Johnson said. “You’ve got to give credit to their pitcher. He’s been doing that to a lot of guys, going deep into ballgames with that little riding fastball. Once he departed, we seemed to wake up and recover from a rough weekend.”

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