Bryce Harper took a 2-2 slider up in the zone inside out to right center and over the high GEICO wall in Nationals Park for a three-run home run in the first inning of Thursday night's game with Miami. Marlins' starter Henderson Alvarez did not like it. When the 23-year-old right-hander fell behind Ian Desmond in the next at bat, he hit the Nats' shortstop up high in the shoulder with a 95 mph fastball that earned both teams warnings from home plate umpire Bill Welke.
Davey Johnson didn't agree with Welke's decision. Randy Knorr vociferously disagreed and got himself tossed in the process while arguing that Alvarez would have been ejected for what was obviously an intentional hit-by-pitch.
"What the umpire did wrong," Johnson explained after the game, "[Alvarez] obviously intentionally hit him. And to me that's an ejection. A warning doesn't do anything." The at bat after a home run when the pitcher's down 3-0 in the count? Could it be more obvious? "It's real obvious when you give up a home run and you get 3-0 on a guy and you drill him," Johnson said. "To me, that's -- you're throwing at somebody on purpose because of the situation and I think the proper thing is to eject him. When you go on a warning, an errant pitch for one of our guys and I'm gone and our pitcher is gone. But I just didn't agree with the warning and neither did Randy [Knorr]."
It was the second time in two games where the same scenario played out. After Anthony Varvaro hit Anthony Rendon late in the Nationals' loss to the Braves on Wednesday night, umpire CB Bucknor too issued warnings to both teams.
"And I questioned him," Johnson told reporters. "I said, 'They have a one run lead. They're not going to hit anybody.' And his reply was that there was a warning from the league office that anything 'close.' Well, that's not close. You're not going to hit my eighth hole hitter in that situation." When Craig Stammen later hit Braves' infielder Chris Johnson, Bucknor showed better judgement in not tossing the Nats' right-hander in spite of the warnings.
After the history with the Braves and the high profile back-and-forth HBP action earlier this season, the league is apparently watching the Nationals closely. "I know the league coming down here, they feel that anything that happens, I know they have the instructions from MLB, anything that happens, warning," Johnson said after Thursday's win over the Fish. "But, it really, it's not like to prevent us from hitting anyone -- not that we would, we're trying to win a ballgame. But when somebody intentionally drills somebody, they should go. It's that simple."
Johnson talked to Bill Welke at the end of the first inning last night, explaining his side of the argument to the home plate umpire. "I just said, 'That's not the proper call,'" Johnson recounted, "'You think he threw at and hit him on purpose and obviously he did 3-0 after a home run, that should be an immediate ejection. Not warning. A warning puts the other team more at risk because if you pitch inside and happen to hit somebody, we're gone."
The Nationals' manager was clear, that the issue wasn't that he wanted to strike back, but that it forces pitches to work carefully if they continue to pitch inside after the warnings. "Not because we're going to retaliate," he said, "but it puts us under the gun of where if we come up and in or something I can lose my pitcher and whatever. But they don't do that. What I grew up under, if somebody was intentionally plunked, very obviously and you knew it, 'Gone.'"
"We're still fighting for a playoff spot," Johnson said, "We're not going to be retaliating. I know players that feel like if they get a guy 3-0 it's better just to drill him and send a message. And I've seen it more here." The Nationals might not retaliate now, but as the Nationals' skipper explained after the dust up with the Braves earlier this season, the information does get filed away...
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- Nationals 3-2 Over Marlins: Bryce Harper's 20th Lifts Nats Over Fish
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