Washington Nationals' Bench Coach Randy Knorr ended up managing a couple of games when Davey Johnson was sick or ejected over the last few years, but he didn't see this one coming. He didn't see the ejection that is.
Knorr was back watching video of the bases-loaded called strike three on Danny Espinosa that eventually led to Matt Williams getting tossed when WIlliams argued the call and home plate umpire Mark Wegner ejected the Nats' first-year skipper. It was Williams' first ejection as manager and Knorr missed it.
"I actually came up to see where the pitch was on Danny [Espinosa] and somebody yelled, 'He got kicked out of the game.' So I actually didn't see it, I had to watch it on tape."
Williams told reporters, including The Washington Post's James Wagner, that he was surprised by Wegner's quick toss:
Williams surprised he was tossed so quickly. Says he just wanted to talk to ump. Smiling, says he was unhappy Nats didn't score that inning.— James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) June 24, 2014
The Nationals loaded the bases with an Adam LaRoche single, a Ryan Zimmerman walk and an Ian Desmond line drive to left field. After Espinosa K'd looking, however, Jose Lobaton K'd swinging and starter Gio Gonzalez grounded back to the mound to let Brewers' right-hander Matt Garza off the hook.
The Nats put runners on the corners with one down in the third though, and LaRoche came through with a three-run home run to center field in Miller Park that provided all of the offense Washington needed to take the first game of their three-game set with the NL Central-leading Brewers.
"Huge," Knorr said of LaRoche's ninth home run of the season. "He's been swinging the bat really well and he got a pitch he could handle and he hit it good."
The win was the Nationals' third straight after they proved to themselves that they could beat the Atlanta Braves by winning two straight this past weekend to earn a split of the four-game set with their NL East rivals in Nationals Park.
The wins left the Nats just 3-7 against the Braves this season. To beat Atlanta in two straight and take the first game from the now-47-31 division-leading Brewers gave the Nationals a needed boost of confidence.
"I think it's a huge win for us," Knorr said. "We've had our troubles with tough teams in the league. And to come out here and win the first game against this team -- this is a really good team over here -- so it's a good start to the road trip."
Gio Gonzalez, in his second start since coming off the DL, struggled at times, but held the Brewers off the board through six scoreless before Aaron Barrett, Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard (with Rafael Soriano unavailable after pitching in three straight) locked down the Nats' 40th win.
"These guys are tough," Knorr said, referring to Milwaukee's hitters. "Outside of Colorado, these guys are the best hitting team in the National League. So, [Gonzalez] made pitches when he needed to and to keep these guys off-balance was a pretty good job."
Gonzalez gave up three hits and four walks, but Knorr said he noticed improvements from Gonzalez's first start off the DL stint for inflammation in his left shoulder which was affecting the lefty's command.
"I think it was better today," the Nats' Bench Coach said. "We had a chance to push him a little bit. He threw what? 115 pitches or close to it and I think it's good for him. Stretch him out a little bit and I thought he threw the ball fine."
Gonzalez threw 114 total, 68 for strikes, struck out five and allowed just one extra base hit. He also found his curve.
"In the previous two starts his breaking ball was off," Knorr explained. "He really didn't have a feel for it. And the fact that he threw a couple over the plate today, it got his confidence back in it and he was able to throw it a lot more."
"I think it's all confidence," he continued, "and when you see a pitcher slide a little bit, his confidence is down, so I think this one might carry him over the hump a little bit and give him some confidence and it really helps our staff and helps us win ballgames."
With the win tonight, the Nationals improved to 13-6 so far in June and 17-18 on the road this season.