For the third time in the last three meetings between the Nationals and Braves, Bryce Harper found himself on the receiving end of a wayward pitch.
After being plunked by Julio Teheran Aug. 6, both Alex Wood and Luis Avilan hit Harper during Atlanta's 3-2 win Friday. Both claimed innocence, with Wood going as far as calling his "embarrassing" for hitting somebody with a curveball.
When Teheran nailed Harper less than two weeks ago, both dugouts and bullpens cleared onto the field, but there was no physical altercation. Friday, after Avilan's pitch earned both teams a warning, the Nationals simply stood at the dugout railing, pleading for some sort of justice. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez pulled Avilan immediately after, but the Turner Field crowd, which had been serenading Harper with a cascade of boos all evening, gave Avilan a standing ovation as he retreated towards the dugout.
Now, while it may just a coincidence that three Braves pitchers -- reliever Scott Downs also rifled one inside that Harper had to evade in the 10th inning Friday -- have hit Harper recently, the Nationals have yet to retaliate in any form.
Harper, who made it known last week that he would have "probably [tried] and put [Teheran] six feet under" if the Nationals had not been trailing the Braves by 14.5 games in the division, was not available for comment after the game, but his teammates that were did not share the same thought process.
“They did that to us the last time,” Ian Krol told reporters. “We like to play civilized. We don’t like to cheap shot anybody. We go out there and work out tails off. Hopefully the outcome of the game goes our way.”
When asked if he thought both pitches were deliberate, Davey Johnson hoped they weren't, adding that "they’ve got a lot more to lose than we do at this point." Let's be real: The Nationals' goose is so cooked, it's overdone. They trail the Braves by 15.5 games with 41 games to go. Despite having won five of their last seven, the Nationals are farther back in the wild card race than when they began their recent stretch. What difference would it make if Washington lost a pitcher for a start?
I don't claim to be a baseball expert -- far from it, really -- but to me, the only thing that the Nationals have to lose at this point for allowing the Braves to hit their star player and punk them without fear of reprisal is their respect.
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