Before we get to all the pieces that actually factored into tonight’s 3-2 Nationals win, let’s get manager Davey Johnson’s reaction to Marlins right-hander Henderson Alvarez hitting Ian Desmond just below the left shoulder on a 3-0 fastball just after Bryce Harper had crushed a three-run homer in the first inning.
Immediately after Desmond was hit, many Nats players jumped up to the top step of the dugout, angered by what they felt was an intentional plunking. Home plate umpire Bill Welke then issued warnings to both benches, which only upset the Nats even more.
“What the umpire did wrong, (Alvarez) obviously intentionally hit him, and to me, that’s an ejection,” Johnson said. “A warning doesn’t do anything. ... But it’s real obvious when you give up a home run and then you get 3-0 on a guy and then you drill him. To me, you’re throwing at somebody on purpose. And I think the proper thing is to eject him. When you go on a warning, an errant pitch from one of our guys and I’m (ejected) and the pitcher’s gone. But I just didn’t agree with the warning, and neither did Randy (Knorr, bench coach).”
Knorr was ejected by Welke for arguing from the dugout, and after the inning was over, Johnson went out to have a chat with the umpire. He explained to Welke that he felt the warning actually hurts the Nats because it could affect Gio Gonzalez’s ability to work inside for fear of accidentally hitting a Marlins hitter.
“I know they have instructions from MLB, anything that happens, warning,” Johnson said. “But it’s not like to prevent us from hitting anybody, not that we would. We’re trying to win a ballgame. But when somebody intentionally drills somebody, he should go. It’s that simple.
“I said, ‘That’s not the proper call.’ If you think he threw at him and hit him on purpose, and obviously he did 3-0 after a home run, it should be an immediate ejection and not a warning. A warning puts the other team more at risk, because if you pitch inside and happen to hit somebody, we’re gone.”
Johnson was asked if he feels this will be something that will carry over to tomorrow, with his team looking to retaliate.
“No, I mean we’re still fighting for a playoff spot,” Johnson said. “We’re not going to be throwing ... I know some players that get a guy 3-0, it’s better just to drill ‘em. Send a message. I’ve seen it more here.”
Outside of all that, there was a ballgame that was played tonight, one that the Nats won despite a shaky first few innings from Gonzalez and a couple tight spots in the late innings. Gonzalez allowed two runs on the night, and was able to go six innings despite throwing 62 pitches through his first three frames.
Drew Storen then pitched a scoreless seventh despite allowing a hit and a walk, Tyler Clippard struck out two in a clean eighth and Rafael Soriano walked two in the ninth en route to his 42nd save this season.
“Gave me a heart attack,” Johnson said with a laugh. “Check my pulse. Gio had one of his typical starts where 60 pitches in 3 innings then he settled down and got some quick innings. Got in a little trouble late, got out of it and took it right to the edge. Storen to the edge, Clip, and Sori topped it off. But it’s nice to come out on top.”
One negative in tonight’s loss was Denard Span’s 29-game hitting streak coming to an end with an 0-for-4 performance. Span struck out in the seventh inning to end his night offensively, and he got a standing ovation from the 25,945 in attendance tonight at Nats Park as he walked back to the dugout.
“I was a little worried about him because he’s hit (Alvarez) well in the past,” Johnson said. “He got some hits through the series that he hadn’t got a hit off guys, and this guy I think he’d got about three, four hits. But he’ll start another one.”
Harper provided all the offense the Nats needed tonight, crushing a three-run bomb to center in the first inning, his 20th homer of the season.
“He was impressive when he first stepped on the field two years ago. He’s only going to get better,” Johnson said. “He’s starting to learn more about what he can do. He sometimes expands the zone, sometimes he overswings. He’s just learning.”