Rafael Soriano gave up a game-tying home run in the first at bat of the bottom of the ninth when Giancarlo Stanton took a 93 mph 1-2 fastball out to left field and over the Clevelander in Marlins Park in Miami, but it was Washington Nationals' outfielder Bryce Harper's eighth-inning ejection that was the big story after tonight's loss.
The Nats' 20-year-old outfielder was not happy with home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt after the official punched Harper out in the top of the sixth, so when it happened again in the eighth, the Nationals' three-hole hitter exploded and got himself tossed for arguing with the umpire. Davey Johnson raced out of the dugout to guide his outfielder back, but it was too late.
Harper told reporters, including Washington Times' writer Amanda Comak, after the game that he felt like Wendelstedt took the bat out of his hands:
Bryce Harper had a few disagreements with Wendelstedt's zone all night. Said he felt like ump "took the bat out of my hands."— Amanda Comak (@acomak) July 14, 2013
Harper's ejection came back to haunt the Nationals, however. Scott Hairston, who took over in the outfield, ended up at the plate in Harper's place in the top of the tenth with runners on second and third with one out after the Nationals got singles from Chad Tracy and Ian Desmond and Marlins' reliever Steve Cisek threw a wild pitch to move both runners up. Hairston K'd swinging on a 2-2 sinker from Cisek and Ryan Zimmerman went down swinging to end the tenth.
A half inning later, the Marlins won it on a walk-off grounder by journeyman infielder Ed Lucas.
Davey Johnson told reporters afterwards that Harper should have taken it out on the opposing pitcher and remained in the game:
Davey Johnson also displeased at Harper for ejection. "You can't do that. Take it out on the pitcher. Don't take it out on the umpire."— Amanda Comak (@acomak) July 14, 2013
Nats' shortstop Ian Desmond talked to reporters about the ejection as well, and as quoted by MLB.com's Bill Ladson, made clear that his young teammate made a bad decision in getting himself tossed:
"'I usually try to say the right thing, I guess, but we have to have our three-hole hitter in the game right there. It’s as simple as that. The person that hits in the three hole is usually your best hitter, one of your better players, usually the best. There is no doubt that his skill set is there, but … in a one run ballgame – we need that game. That’s the game you have to stay in, no matter what. Sometimes, you have to bite your tongue. You get bad calls against us. The umpires didn’t look at the replays or anything like that. But you have to stay in the game – you have to for your team.'"
Davey Johnson promised changes in the lineup in the finale of the Nats' three-game series in Miami. Jayson Werth atop the order? Anthony Rendon second? What will the Nationals' skipper do to once again try to turn things around?