69-year-old Washington Nationals' manager Davey Johnson was still hot when he got to the post game press conference following the Nats' 9-2 win over the Chicago Cubs on Thursday night. The win completed a four-game sweep/drubbing of the Cubbies. The benches and bullpens cleared twice in the finale of the series in the nation's capital, once when Nationals' third base coach Bo Porter and Cubs' bench coach Jamie Quirk got into a heated exchange and once more when Bryce Harper started out toward the mound after Cubs' reliever Lendy Castillo came a little too close to hitting the Nats' 19-year-old outfielder.
The first confrontation took place in the fifth inning with Washington already up 7-2. Ian Desmond walked with one down, then stole second. Danny Espinosa singled, sending Desmond to third, then one out later stole second too. After a two-out walk of Jordan Zimmermann by the aforementioned Lendy Castillo loaded the bases for Jayson Werth, the right-hander got behind the Nationals' outfielder 3-0. Werth took a healthy cut at the 3-0 pitch and missed. When Cubs' catcher Steve Clevenger went for a new mitt, Quirk and Porter got into it, screaming at one another to the point that Porter made his way over and almost into the Cubs' dugout. Both benches and bullpens cleared, but cooler heads prevailed this time. What was Quirk's issue?
"Their bench coach was yelling all kinds of things," Davey Johnson told reporters after the game, "Swinging 3-0, oh, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, really loud. Everybody [heard]. It was totally uncalled for, here we are in the fifth inning, we're in the pennant race, we're going to swing 3-0."
"We ain't stopping trying to score runs," Johnson continued, "And certainly a five-run lead at that time is nothing. I think it was the bench coach's frustration [at] us handing it to them for a couple of days. If they want to quit competing and forfeit then fine. But we're going to keep competing."
"I don't know why they're getting on about swinging 3-0," Johnson continued, "Their first baseman [Anthony Rizzo] swung at 3-0 the first inning. What's the difference with bases loaded in the fifth with only a five run lead and two outs. Just frustration over there on their part and then a couple of their players [in the second altercation], one of their guys came over the top and tried to hit someone, that was [Manny] Corpas and that created a ruckus and the catcher [Levenger] pushed Michael Morse and [Edwin] Jackson was right there with him and shoved [Levenger] and that's again frustration from a team that's having a rough year."
"I was proud of my guys for not really overreacting," Johnson said, "We're in a pennant race. We've got to be mild citizens. We don't start things, but we're not going to completely back down from anything. You worry about somebody getting hurt or somebody getting suspended because of something they did. And that's the... I've had a conversation with several of the guys about it. We just can't react. Even if somebody got smoked, we can't hit somebody."
"Morse really got... almost like a punch," Johnson said, reenacting the blow his outfielder suffered, "That's what set [Morse] off and also Jackson. Those were the two that were right there and that's what really aggravated our guys. I don't blame them. I'd have been the same way. I'd have probably popped'em." The Nats' skipper said he thought the umpires handled it well and he didn't expect any suspensions to follow.
As for the way Harper handled the almost-HBP?
Cubs' manager Dale Sveum said afterward that it was unintentional, tellling CSNChicago's Patrick Mooney, "Castillo’s a Rule 5 kid that’s thrown a lot of those (kind of) pitches. There was no intention to hit Bryce Harper.'"
"It was just unfortunate that the guy threw behind him," Johnson said. [ed. note - "It was in front of Harper actually, but whatever it was a crazy night."] "We heard from one of the guys that we know over there that said it definitely wasn't an order from the bench. So, I don't know the whole story there, but I thought [Harper] handled it pretty good."
"That's the frustration of a team that's not having a good year," Johnson concluded. "If they get mad at my guys in the fifth inning swinging 3-0 or running, they better get used to it. Asked for his thoughts on Bo Porter's reaction, the Nats' skipper said he was sticking up for him. "It was getting real personal," Johnson said, "And he's sticking up for me because it's really my decision what we do on the field."
Porter, according to lip readers everywhere who watched the video, was reportedly telling the Cubs' bench coach, "That's how we play." Johnson confirmed as much, explaining, "Yeah. That's how we play. We don't quit trying to compete... until... my deal is basically we get to the closer with a seven-run lead. This other stuff of playing behind and not stealing and not trying to keep scoring runs? I don't agree with it. Anything can happen. So... anyway. Interesting night."
• Here's an assortment of post game Tweets:
Sveum on Nats-Cubs series: "It’s probably one of the biggest butt-whuppings I’ve ever gotten in my career, as a coach or player."— Patrick Mooney (@CSNMooney) September 7, 2012
Michael Gonzalez on the Cubs throwing at Harper: "You come into our house and try to mess with our kid brother?"— Amanda Comak (@acomak) September 7, 2012
Crew chief Jerry Layne: "The obscenities that [Quirk] screamed out I just felt was inappropriate and that’s what caused everything."— James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) September 7, 2012
Harper: "I’d be pretty pissed off if I was getting my teeth kicked in all weekend, too, but you can’t lay down" up five in the fifth— Dan Kolko (@masnKolko) September 7, 2012
Drew Storen (@DrewStoren) September 7, 2012