CINCINNATI — Nationals manager Davey Johnson was ejected in the seventh inning of Sunday afternoon’s 5-4 14th inning loss to the Reds in the middle of Michael Morse’s at-bat against Reds’ right-hander Johnny Cueto. Pat Corrales was also ejected, shortly after the Nationals took the lead in the top of the ninth, after uttering from the dugout that a pitch in the ninth inning was high.
After the 2-0 pitch appeared to have grazed Morse, but was ruled simply as a ball and not a hit batter, Morse was incensed. On his way to first base already, the left fielder turned around incredulous and began making his case to home plate umpire Sam Holbrook. It didn’t take long for Johnson to appear on the scene, pleading for Holbrook to get some help from his fellow umpires on the call.
He did, the call remained. Johnson, who could be seen on the local television broadcast saying “This is bull****,” to Holbrook and third base umpire Joe West, was then promptly ejected — his first as Nationals manager. Morse swung through the next pitch and was eventually called out on strikes on a pitch that appeared to be significantly outside the strike zone. Morse obviously thought the pitch was a ball, beginning to make his way to first base for the second time in the at-bat, and was not the first National to assume they’d walked before Holbrook told them otherwise. After the game, Morse maintained that the 2-0 pitch hit him in the hand.
Asked why he was ejected, Johnson was at a loss.
“That’s a good question,” Johnson said. “I heard the ball hit something before it went in the catcher’s mitt. It looked like a forearm or his pad and I could hear it really plainly from the dugout so I asked (Holbrook) to get help and he got help and it didn’t go my way. I didn’t cuss at anybody and Mr. (Joe) West thought to get rid of me. That’s part of the game I guess.”
Ian Desmond ended the sixth inning with a strikeout in a similar manner to Morse’s, jumping up and down for a moment as he protested the call before turning and heading back to the dugout, and Jayson Werth had a likewise reaction after his own first-inning strikeout.
“An intense game like that, everyone cares,” Desmond said. “It’s just heat of the moment. I’ve got a lot of respect for Sam back there. It’s very out of character for me to yell at the umpire. At the time, it was just a little intense. But you can’t leave it in the umpires hands.”
The biggest issue seemed to be the strike zone’s inconsistency, which was evident from the start. Even Jordan Zimmermann, who rarely issues walks, had one called with the bases loaded to force in, at the time, the go-ahead run. He started the at-bat with Fred Lewis with a strike, but followed with four straight balls. The final three were all on the edge or within the strike zone, according to MLB.com’s Gameday pitch tracker.
“I didn’t want to walk the guy at the end there,” Zimmermann said. “But there was a couple close calls that could have went either way.”
Reds manager Dusty Baker was also ejected, in the 12th inning, coming out to argue when Drew Stubbs was called out on an attempted steal of second base.