Though it wasn't as obvious as Lance Berkman back in the day in that game in Minute Maid Park, Bryce Harper did appear to swing at the 2-2 slider left-hander Oliver Perez threw him in the seventh inning of the series finale with the Arizona Diamondbacks yesterday in Chase Field.
Harper "asked" home plate umpire Rob Drake to ask for help with the call from the third base umpire, but Drake did not, and in the ensuing argument, which didn't last long, the Washington Nationals' 22-year-old slugger was ejected, as was Nats' skipper Matt Williams when he came out to argue on his player's behalf.
Of course, as we all know now, Harper's spot in the order came up in the top of the ninth, and Michael Taylor, who replaced Harper, came through with a go-ahead grand slam that gave the Nats a 9-6 lead over the D-Backs.
Funny how things work out, right?
"Well, it's not funny," Nats' skipper Matt Williams told reporters after the game. "Not even close to being funny. But it's -- I think we got fortunate in that one. They had a lot of opportunity, we allowed them a lot of opportunity, and we were able to get the last swing."
Taylor put that big swing on the ball, taking a 92 mph fastball from D-Backs' closer Addison Reed to deep center field for his third home run of the season and the first slam of the 24-year-old outfielder's major league career.
As Williams explained, however, it was a series of good at bats that set Taylor up with that chance.
"Good swing," by Taylor, Williams said. "Good at bat from Denard [Span], good at bat from Yunel [Escobar], good at bat from Jayson [Werth] to give us that opportunity for Mike to get up there and he got a good pitch, fastball down in the strike zone and did what he had to with it. Hit it to the middle of the diamond, it was good. Good approach in the last inning."
Williams liked what he saw from the team as a whole as they fought back repeatedly and finally took the finale of the three-game set in Arizona.
"They can put together some good at bats," he said. "We certainly want to get the lead and keep the lead, that's the plan, but when it doesn't go to plan, then we have to jump, crawl, do whatever we can [to get] back into games, so whatever it takes we need to win. Today we were fortunate to do so."
The Nationals fell behind 1-0 early, but a three-run home run by Jayson Werth in the third gave them a 3-1 lead, which lasted less than a half-inning when the Diamondbacks rallied for three runs in the third.
The D-Backs took a 5-3 lead on an RBI single by A.J. Pollock in the fifth, but Tyler Moore came off the bench and hit a two-run blast off the left field foul pole to tie things up at 5-5.
It stayed that way until Yasmany Tomas broke up the tie with an RBI single in the eighth, setting the stage for Taylor's 444 ft blast.
"T-Mo comes off the bench with a big home run and [Michael] Taylor, another bench guy hits a big home run," Werth said when he spoke to reporters after the game. "You've got to have a good bench and our guys showed up today."
Returning to Harper's ejection in his post game press conference, Williams said that he came out to make sure Harper didn't get himself in any more trouble after the ejection.
"The argument was -- after the fact, I'm going out there to protect Bryce," he explained.
"If he gets kicked out of the game he gets kicked out, but nothing further than that. So, you have to ask Bryce about that one. He was arguing with the home plate umpire. Generally, if he calls it, there's no argument there."
Williams said it was just an instance of Harper's frustration boiling over.
"He's been real good all season. He's passionate, but he's been really good all season about it, today it went over."
As Harper explained it to reporters, including the Washington Post's James Wagner, he didn't like Drake's response to his initial request:
"Harper said he told Drake: ‘You’re gonna have to check it.’ He said, ‘You’re really gonna act like that?’ I didn’t like that comment from him. I don’t like getting talked down to by an umpire. I respect the umpires as much as I can but to tell me I’m going to act like that I gave him a piece of my mind."
Luckily for the Nationals, Taylor, who filled in admirably while Span was on the DL early this season, came through with the third home run of the game after Werth and Moore, who improved to 4 for 15 (.263/.353/.533) with a double and a home run as a pinch hitter this season.
The Nats took two of three from the D-Backs and pulled within 1.5 games of the NL East-leading New York Mets, who dropped their third straight.