Strasburg Ejected: Did Nationals' Starter Stephen Strasburg Lose Control Against The Braves?

Scott Cunningham

One pitch had purpose. Two he threw in the second had some confused. Stephen Strasburg responded to the recent HBPs on Bryce Harper last night in Atlanta, and the Washington Nationals' game with the Braves on Saturday got a little weird...

The question before last night's game was a simple one: Would Stephen Strasburg hit one of the Atlanta Braves in retaliation for three pitches in the past two weeks that hit Washington Nationals' outfielder Bryce Harper? If Strasburg, the no.1 pick in '09, was going to stick up for the top pick in the 2010 draft, Davey Johnson explained before the game he'd be doing it on his own, not at the behest of the 70-year-old skipper. "I never order a pitcher to go after anybody," Johnson said, "but we have a way of protecting our own."

"It's either total ignorance or just being wild," Johnson said. "And I'm not sure which it is at this point." - Johnson before Saturday's game on Braves' HBPs

Johnson reiterated that he thought Julio Teheran's decision to hit Harper last week in D.C. with what everyone in Washington saw as a purpose made little sense. The two HBPs the night before, in the first game of three for the Nats in Turner Field, didn't seem intentional to the skipper because the circumstances under which they occurred didn't seem ideally suited for sending a message to the Nationals' 20-year-old slugger. "It's either total ignorance or just being wild," Johnson said. "And I'm not sure which it is at this point."

But still, Teheran, starter Alex Wood and reliever Luis Avilan threw pitches that hit Harper in the hip, back and back of the left arm, the second on Friday hard enough in the left tricep that the outfielder took the night off on Saturday and sat and watched what transpired. The fact that Harper had to take a day off when the Nationals were fighting for every win didn't sit well with the defending NL East Champs or their manager. "I'm not happy with it and I know everybody in that room is not happy with it," Johnson told reporters.

"I'm not happy with it and I know everybody in that room is not happy with it," Johnson told reporters. - Davey Johnson after learning Harper was a scratch for Saturday

Strasburg apparently thought a message had to be sent and he delivered it in the form of a 97 mph fastball to Braves' left fielder Justin Upton's backside. The Nationals took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first. Jason Heyward homered on a 3-2 heater in the first at bat of Atlanta's half of the inning and Strasburg hit Upton with a high 90's fastball that left no question about his intentions. Upton gave a little look out towards the mound as he took his base. Home plate umpire Marvin Hudson issued warnings and things had seemingly been settled between the divisional rivals.


Strasburg got out of the first without further damage and the Nationals added two more runs on Braves' starter Mike Minor in the top of the second and that's when things got weird. After a long 41-pitch inning in which Minor was knocked out of the game, Strasburg retook the mound in Turner Field and threw four straight balls to Jordan Schafer, walking the leadoff hitter. The first pitch the Nats' starter threw to the next batter, Andrelton Simmons, was a curve ball outside that was nowhere near a strike. It earned the Nats' pitcher a visit from Pitching Coach Steve McCatty. The next two pitches went behind the Braves' shortstop and hit the backstop hard, allowing Schafer to take second and then third. The second of the two wild pitches got Strasburg and manager Davey Johnson tossed.

"I don't know if somebody said something. Or he just decided to do it on his own. If he decided to do it on his own, I'm proud of him." - Randy Knorr on Stephen Strasburg

Strasburg didn't argue against the ejection, walking off the field and into the third base dugout. Davey Johnson argued, but had no case, really. Johnson, as quoted by reporters, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Carroll Rogers, expressed concern with what he saw from Strasburg in the second and asked if anything was wrong when he joined Strasburg in the clubhouse:

"'When I came in the first thing I said to Stras (was), ‘Are you hurt? Is something wrong with you?,’ said Nationals manager Davey Johnson, who also got ejected since both dugouts had been warned. 'He said ‘No, I’m just a little out of sorts.’"

• via Twitter:

Strasburg blamed the long top of the second, saying he lost his command after sitting. "Just the long inning right before there," the right-hander told reporters. "I just got a little cold and I [was] just missing spots." Asked if it was mechanics or something else, Strasburg said, "I can't really explain it. Just didn't really feel good out there and couldn't hit the spot."

"I can't really explain it. Just didn't really feel good out there and couldn't hit the spot." - Stephen Strasburg on wild pitches vs Simmons

But he said he understood the ejection. "Sure, yeah, it makes sense," the Nats' starter said. As for the HBP on Upton? "I'm not going to get into that," Strasburg responded when asked.

The two pitches behind the Braves' shortstop left Marvin Hudson with no choice as Nats' Bench Coach Randy Knorr explained when he talked to reporters after what ended up being a marathon fifteen inning affair. "I think a lot of stuff was building up," Knorr told reporters. "I don't know why he would try to hit Simmons. I don't think so. I think he was trying to go inside. And he just threw one behind him. And I think the umpire thought the same thing and then the next one behind him too and [Hudson] can't let that happen. Simmons beat us the other way quite a bit, so he was trying to go in."

"I think it was, 'I'm going to go in and if I go in and hit him, I hit him,'" Knorr said, speculating on Strasburg's thought process. "I don't think the intent was to go in and hit him at that time. I think if he was going to miss, he was going to miss inside and so that's what he did."

"I think when you throw a warning up there, it just prolongs it, so it doesn't happen that day because you can't lose players and the manager don't want to leave." - Randy Knorr on warnings on HBPs

There was little doubt in Knorr's mind about Strasburg's intentions when it came to the HBP on Justin Upton.

"They hit Harper quite a bit," the bench coach said, "I don't know if somebody said something. Or he just decided to do it on his own. If he decided to do it on his own, I'm proud of him."

So the Braves took some liberties, at least in the Nationals' minds. The Nats responded, with their top starter hitting the Braves' left fielder after they'd hit the Nationals' left fielder. That's it, right? "I think it should be over," Knorr said, before offering his thoughts on why things escalated to the point they did on Saturday night.

"I think if they would just let it play out and let the guys do what they're going to do instead of throwing warnings up there... I think when you throw a warning up there, it just prolongs it, so it doesn't happen that day because you can't lose players and the manager don't want to leave, so next time you see them... those guys are going to do what they want to do out there, you can't control them all the time."

After a few weeks, four HBPs, some words and a near brawl, the players apparently settled it on the field.

More from Federal Baseball:

SB Nation Featured Video
X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Federal Baseball

You must be a member of Federal Baseball to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Federal Baseball. You should read them.

Join Federal Baseball

You must be a member of Federal Baseball to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Federal Baseball. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker