Johnson battling illness; Knorr discusses Harper’s hustle, Nats’ loss

Nationals manager Davey Johnson left the dugout around the fourth inning of tonight’s 3-2 loss to the Mets due to dehydration, although Johnson said afterwards that he’ll be fine.

The 70-year-old Johnson had been feeling under the weather today, and when he started feeling light-headed a few innings into tonight’s game, he decided to head up into the Nats’ clubhouse to get some medical treatment. Bench coach Randy Knorr took over the Nationals’ managerial duties from there.

“I think he’s just coming down with something,” Knorr said. “He got a little light-headed, so he just went back upstairs. He’s fine, though. I think he might be catching a cold or something.”

Reporters saw Johnson as he was leaving the Nationals’ clubhouse tonight. Johnson said medical personnel tried to give him IV fluids twice, but it didn’t take.

“I’ll survive,” Johnson said.

Knorr steered the ship through the rest of the Nats’ tough loss to the Mets, and he saw things get pretty interesting in the eighth inning.

The Nats trailed 3-1 heading into the bottom of the eighth, but that deficit was cut in half when Steve Lombardozzi smacked a two-out, pinch-hit homer into the Nats’ bullpen to make it a 3-2 game. Denard Span and Ryan Zimmerman then both singled, bringing up Bryce Harper with the tying run at second and two outs.

Mets manager Terry Collins brought in left-hander Scott Rice to face Harper, and Harper immediately got ahead in the count 3-0. He then took a big cut at the 3-0 pitch, a fastball down in the zone, and fouled it off. Harper took another swing at the next pitch he saw, a 3-1 fastball, and grounded out to second.

“I gave it to him as an option,” Knorr said of the 3-0 green-light. “Lefty-on-lefty, it might be one of the best pitches he’s gonna get right there. He missed it, he fouled it off. You could see the next pitch was a little bit tougher, and he hit it into the ground.

“I’m fine with (the 3-0 swing). Bryce is a good hitter. It didn’t work out, hindsight says at all, but if he comes up and the guy throws a ball to try and get back in the count and he whacks it off the wall, we’re not having this conversation.”

Harper is known for his all-out, all-the-time hustling attitude, but he didn’t bring his usual hustle on the groundout, jogging lightly down the line. Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy bobbled the ball, but because Harper wasn’t going full-speed, Murphy had time to collect the ball and record the final out of the inning

That lack of hustle irked Knorr.

“The thing about Bryce right now that’s tough, he gets frustrated, and I don’t think he does it intentionally, but he’s gonna have to start picking it up a little bit, because we’ve got everybody else doing it,” Knorr said. “He gets frustrated at times, and it just comes out of him. It’s something we’ve got to fix.

“He (hustled) all last year, but he’s got a lot going on. It’s hard for me to say. I’m not 20 years old in the big leagues and all this stuff going on around me. Something that we’ve got to get to the bottom of and keep talking to him, because eventually, we’re just going to have to take him out of the game.

“He’s been trying, but it just shows up at times. Like in that situation, he’s got a chance to tie the ballgame up or go ahead and he doesn’t get it done. He knows he’s out, and it just comes out of him.”

Knorr said that even if Harper did book it down the line, he probably doesn’t beat Murphy’s throw anyway. But the speed with which Harper moved down the line is something that Knorr clearly took note of.

Prior to that whole sequence, the Mets were able to tack on a key insurance run in the top of the eighth when Zimmerman decided to make an off-balance throw to first on a grounder that he fielded behind the third base bag. The throw allowed Murphy (who had been on second base at the start of the play) to score, making it a 3-1 Nats lead.

Another play that could be second-guessed after the fact, but Knorr says that’s a tough decision for Zimmerman in the moment.

“You could say (Zimmerman shouldn’t have made a throw) now, but Zim’s made some great plays in his career and in his mind, he’s trying to get the out,” Knorr said. “There’s two outs, he’s trying to make the out. I bet he’s thinking right now that maybe I shouldn’t have done it that way, but he’s made great plays, so you can’t fault him for that. And Murphy did a good job not stopping. He just ran the whole way, and they got us on it.”

The Nats are in a spot where they need to finish incredibly strong to have a shot at a playoff spot, and so wins like this, where they were very much in it and had chances to come out on top, might sting a little more.

“We’ll think about it tonight and say, ‘If we got this back or that back...’ but I still think we’re in a great spot,” Knorr said. “We’ve been playing really good baseball lately, and these games are gonna show up. It’s all how you bounce back and play the next day. Can’t expect to go out and win the last 30 games. Somebody’s gonna stop us one day, and we’ve just got to pick it up and go after it again.”

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