“If [Strasburg] decided to do it on his own, I’m proud of him,” bench coach and acting manager Randy Knorr said. Added LaRoche: “Whether it got away from him or not, he’s got my respect. I was impressed.”
“You can say whatever it is, but the game will always police itself,” Stammen added. “And credit to their hitters, when they got hit, they walked down to first base, they took it like men and that’s kinda how it is and it should be over now.”
With his first few pitches in the bottom of the second, Strasburg’s command was off. He walked the first batter, Schafer, on four pitches. Facing Andrelton Simmons, he fired a wild pitch low and outside that allowed Schafer to take second base. Pitching coach Steve McCatty paid a mound visit.
Strasburg fired another wild pitch, this time behind right-handed Simmons and to the backstop. Ramos crouched down behind the plate again and set up inside. Strasburg uncorked yet another wild pitch, again behind Simmons and to the backstop. Schafer scored easily.
“I can’t really explain it,” Strasburg said. “Just didn’t really feel good out there and couldn’t hit the spot.”
As he stood near home plate, Strasburg’s face was blank. Hudson tossed him from the game. Strasburg said nothing and, with his head down, walked slowly off the field. Johnson ran out to talk with Hudson, but he, too, by rule was ejected because of the warning the inning before. Asked later if he understood why he had been tossed, Strasburg said: “Yeah, makes sense.”
And, of course, the baseball gods somehow found a way to get Harper into the game. With a 7-5 lead in the top of the ninth, Hairston struck out on a low 2-2 fastball from David Carpenter. Hairston appeared to say something to Hudson, who quickly tossed him. With Roger Bernadina and LaRoche already substituted into the game, Knorr sent him out to left field.
With a two-run lead in the ninth, the Nationals turned to their high-priced closer Soriano, coming off two bad outings. After a quick out, he nibbled around the strike zone and walked pinch hitter Gerald Laird on six pitches. It was the same cardinal sin that doomed his last appearance in which blew a save.
Soriano got next pinch hitter Evan Gattis to roll over on a cutter, but the groundball was deep in the hole. Desmond nabbed the ball but the relay throw from Anthony Rendon couldn’t beat a racing Gattis at first. Two pitches later, Heyward added to the Nationals’ season-long misery by mashing a high and outside fastball over the right field fence. It was Soriano’s sixth blown save of the season, tied for second in the NL.
After Soriano’s blunder, Krol tossed two crucial scoreless innings a night after serving up the game-winning home run to Upton. Stammen, the final National reliever in the bullpen, jogged out of the bullpen for the 12th inning at 11:39 p.m.
“I figured I’m going to pitch until the game’s over,” he said. “So, I’m either gonna get walked-off on, or I’m gonna win the game . . . You’re kinda like, ‘Let’s have fun and see what happens and whatever does, that’s the way it is.’”
The Nationals offense turned dormant after Zimmerman’s eighth inning home run, going 0 for 16. Zimmerman snapped the skid with a two-out single in the 13th inning off Tuesday’s scheduled starter, Kris Medlen. LaRoche would the decisive hit an inning later.
Haren threw a 30-pitch bullpen session earlier in the day and lifted his upper body. Once Strasburg was ejected, he volunteered his services. He could tell what direction the game was headed. He jogged out to the mound for the 15th inning for the first time in his career. LaRoche would have been the next option, the first position player to appear.
“Basically it was down to me,” Haren said. “The best part of it was [LaRoche] hitting the homer. Me coming in for a tie game on the road, who knows how long I would’ve been out there. But he hit the homer and it was like, ‘OK, just nail it down and that’s it.’ ”