Was home plate umpire Jerry Meals' called third strike on Bryce Harper in the eleventh inning in Citi Field a ball?
Yes. It wasn't even close, actually. We joke from time to time on Twitter that "If Bryce Harper does not swing, it is not a strike," but in this case it really wasn't.
Lest you think it's bias coming from someone following and covering the Nationals on a daily basis, have a look at the pitch and you'll see Harper was clearly right about the call:
Pitch no.5 above from Mets' right-hander Hansel Robles was not even close.
Okay, "not even close" might be a stretch in a game of inches, but it's clearly not a strike and the way Bryce Harper has been judging the strike zone this year, and taking balls and walks when offered, he wasn't going to swing at the pitch and didn't and when it was called strike three he popped his top. Blew a gasket. Pick your own metaphor for losing his cool.
Harper got himself tossed in the eleventh inning of a 1-1 game with the Nationals' bench already depleted.
Was Meals calling the pitch a strike all night? [ed. note - "Green for balls, red for strikes. I'm color-blind, especially with reds, greens, browns, etc., so judge for yourself."]:
Bryce Harper certainly thought Jerry Meals was having a bad night, so after his called strike three in the eleventh he let Meals have it and got himself tossed fairly quickly.
He told reporters after the game, a 2-1 loss to the Mets, that he was sticking up for himself and his teammates:
Bryce Harper on Jerry Meals ejecting him: "I was sticking up for my team and myself at the same time. He was bad all night." #Nats— Chris Johnson (@masnCJ) August 1, 2015
"He called a strike,'" Harper told reporters, including the Washington Post's James Wagner. "I don’t know. He’d been doing it all night. I told him what I said and that was it.":
"I’m sticking up for my team and myself at the same time," he said. "He was bad all night. I didn’t get up the next inning so nothing hurt."
Nationals' manager Matt Williams was asked for his thoughts on Harper's ejection too.
"He needs to stay in the baseball game," Williams said. "He needs to stay in the baseball game. We're down, we've -- Clint [Robinson] got hit, we pinch ran [Danny Espinosa], he scored the tying run. That burns two guys there. Pinch hit [Tyler Moore]. He needs to stay in the baseball game."
Williams did what he had to with Harper out, moving Jayson Werth to right, Ryan Zimmerman to left and putting Dan Uggla in Zim's spot at first. But in an important game with the second place team in the division, the Nationals need Bryce Harper on the field, not in the clubhouse, regardless of how bad the umpire was behind the plate.
"At that stage of the game -- again, I want him to stay in every game," Williams said. "We've talked about it. We'll talk about it again."
• We talked about Harper's ejection, Meals' zone, Williams' bullpen management and more on tonight's edition of Nats Nightly: