Johnson and Knorr discuss Nats’ 15-inning win

ATLANTA - Anything to discuss after this one tonight? Pretty boring night of baseball, eh?

The Nationals didn’t just beat the Braves 8-7 in 15 innings tonight. They outlasted them.

Neither starting pitcher tonight went more than two innings. Stephen Strasburg hit Justin Upton in the first and then was ejected in the second for throwing behind Andrelton Simmons. The Nats blew a 6-2 lead and then saw their two-run advantage in the ninth disappear when Rafael Soriano surrendered a two-out, two-run homer to Jason Heyward.

Craig Stammen pitched three innings tonight after going two innings the previous game. Dan Haren got his first career save in 11 years of big league ball. What a night.

“That was fun. I enjoyed it,” said bench coach Randy Knorr, who took over managing duties when manager Davey Johnson was ejected along with Strasburg in the second. “I’m proud of those guys in that clubhouse right there. They never stopped playing and it was just great to watch them go after it.”

Before we get into the middle and late innings, let’s go over what happened early, when Strasburg hit Upton in the backside with a 97 mph fastball and then threw three wild pitches in the second, the final two of which went behind Simmons.

Knorr was asked about whether he felt Strasburg hit Upton on purpose given all that’s gone on with these teams the last couple of weeks.

“Well, they hit (Bryce) Harper quite a bit,” Knorr said. “So I don’t know if somebody said something or if he just decided to do it on his own. If he decided to do it on his own, I’m proud of him.

“I think a lot of stuff was building up and you know, I don’t know why he would try to hit Simmons. I don’t think so. I think he was trying to go inside. He went behind him and I think the umpire thought the same thing and then the next one went behind him and he can’t let that happen, you know? Simmons (has) beat us the other way quite a bit, so he was trying to go in.”

By rule, Johnson was tossed along with Strasburg because home plate umpire Marvin Hudson felt the pitches to Simmons were intentional and they came after Hudson had warned both benches in the first inning.

“He’s still learning to deal with the adversities of pitching up here,” Johnson said. “First hitter hit one of his pitches out and I don’t know if he was trying to throw in or maybe send a message. I don’t know. Certainly other clubs do that to us. When he went back out in the second inning, I’ve never seen his command so bad. He didn’t come close to the first hitter he faced. Then (pitching coach Steve) McCatty went out and he threw a curveball that was eight feet outside. Then he threw a couple behind the hitter. Didn’t look like they were trying to hit him. He couldn’t even find the strike zone.

“When I came in (after being ejected), the first thing I said to Stras when we were both in here, I said, ‘Are you hurt? Is something wrong with you?’ He said, ‘No, I’m just a little out of sorts.’ ”

The Nats quickly had to move on once Strasburg was thrown out. Tanner Roark threw four scoreless innings and the Nats built their lead. It was 7-5 going into the bottom of the ninth when Soriano served up the bomb to Heyward that tied the game. Soriano has now allowed six runs in his last three outings and has blown two straight saves.

“I just think he always seems to have a walk in his outing that puts the runners in scoring position and he ends up giving up the home run,” Knorr said. “If he’d eliminate the walk, he probably wouldn’t get himself in so much trouble.”

Ian Krol worked a scoreless 10th and 11th a night after getting walked-off on. Then Stammen, who worked two innings the game prior, came in and delivered three scoreless, striking out five.

Finally, the Nats’ bats awoke after putting up just two hits in the previous seven innings. Adam LaRoche crushed a homer to right, his 18th of the season, and the Nats took the lead. Instead of sticking with Stammen, Knorr turned to Haren to close it out in the 15th, just a handful of hours after Haren threw a bullpen session and lifted upper-body.

“Dan came up to us when Stephen got thrown out of the game and he just said ‘Hey, if you guys need me,’ ” Knorr said. “He threw a bullpen today but he said he’d go out and do it. I’m proud of him for even doing that. A lot of guys wouldn’t have even gone down there after throwing a bullpen.

“(Stammen) wanted to go again, but he threw two innings yesterday. I’m not going to hurt the kid trying to get a win. I’ll sacrifice that any day to keep those guys healthy and I wasn’t going to let him go back out. I did almost change my mind when Rochey hit the home run though!”

Haren delivered, notching his first career save and finally ending a game that lasted 5 hours, 29 minutes.

“Those guys, they grinded through,” Knorr said. “They wanted to beat them. They went after it, they didn’t give up and they won the game.”

Said Johnson: “It’s a big lift. ... Tomorrow’s going to come quick. Still a long way to go, but that was a big win. Soriano gave up the home run to blow the save, but everybody hung in there. Good team effort. Rochey got a great hit and that was fun watching Haren.”

Now they’ll be back in about 11 hours to go at it again.

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