Before the second of three with the Giants in San Francisco’s AT&T Park, Washington Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker and Nats’ slugger Bryce Harper downplayed the possibility there would be retaliation for Hunter Strickland’s 98 mph purpose pitch during the eighth inning of Monday’s series opener.
Suspensions (four games for Harper, six for Strickland) were handed out before the game, punishing Strickland for the pitch, and Harper for charging the mound, tossing his helmet, even though he missed, and exchanging punches with the reliever he took deep twice in the 2014 NLDS and hadn’t faced since.
That’s what stuck with Harper, who expressed disbelief again before Tuesday night’s game.
“It’s just crazy that it even happened yesterday,” he told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
“After three years, to do that, I don’t know what was going through his mind or how upset he was the last couple years. If he did have a problem, he could’ve talked to me in BP about it and [said]: ‘I didn’t like the way you went about it.’ But that’s not human nature, I guess.”
Baker argued last night and again this afternoon that Harper’s reaction was just human nature as well, and he said he didn’t think the discipline handed down by Major League Baseball was necessarily fair.
“I thought it was kind of harsh,” Baker said of the four-game suspension. “Especially when you’re the recipient of the act, so I’m glad Bryce is appealing it, and it would have taken a heck of a man to not do something reactionary in retaliation to being hit, because that ball hurts.”
“The whole act wasn’t fair,” Baker continued. “It doesn’t matter what I say or what I do, really, I just didn’t think that the judges, whoever the judges were, have ever been in the situation.
“I think probably only Martin Luther King or Gandhi would have turned the other cheek and not done something reactionary.”
In spite of the fact that Baker believed the pitch was intentionally thrown at Harper, he said he didn’t think there would be any retaliation.
“I don’t think retaliation is the key in this situation,” he said, again, according to MASN’s Mark Zuckerman. “I know Bruce Bochy didn’t give the command or order.”
“In my mind, it was more of a selfish, not a team act, but a selfish act on his part. ... It’s more selfish, because he’ll probably never come to the plate for there to be any retaliation. So the best thing for us to do is beat up on them and win tonight.”
The Nationals did just that, beating the Giants 6-3 in the second game in AT&T. Harper went hitless, however, grounding out in his first at bat, taking a called strike three in a bases-loaded at bat in the second, stranding a runner at third on another called strike three in the fourth, flying out in the fifth and striking out again in the eighth.
Baker did, however, like that the Nationals as a team responded with the win, knocking Giants’ starter Jeff Samardzija out after just four innings in which the right-hander got up to 100 pitches.
“I liked it a lot,” Baker said.
“Harp had a tough day. We were hoping to break that game open in the second inning and score a whole bunch more runs, because you know we had [Samardzija’s] pitch count up and usually he’s a guy that they depend on for innings over there, and so we got his pitch count up early and we had some tough at bats, some real tough at bats against him and that’s how you’ve got to face him.”
In spite of the anticipation that there would be some sort of retaliation from the Nats, Baker said the umpires didn’t even warn the teams before as they usually would if the expectation was things could get ugly.
“No. There was nothing. Nothing said and what happened yesterday is over and I just hate that everybody is making Bryce the culprit but he was really the victim. Things will subside.”