Benches clear in DC after Harper gets plunked
Nationals outfielder drilled by Teheran one at-bat after hitting long home run
WASHINGTON -- The tension between National League East rivals Atlanta and Washington was evident on the field at Nationals Park and even playfully on Twitter.
After homering to deep center field in the third inning, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper stepped into the batter's box with one out in the fifth and Anthony Rendon on second base. Braves starter Julio Teheran hit the side of Harper's right thigh with a four-seam fastball on the first pitch.
Harper yelled and pointed at Teheran as he walked to first base. Braves catcher Brian McCann took offense to the comments and had to be restrained by home-plate umpire Joe West. Both benches and bullpens emptied, but there were no physical confrontations between any members of the two teams.
Harper said after the game, which Atlanta won, 2-1, that the incident was "part of the game" and something that Teheran has "got to do." The 20-year-old was then asked if he was surprised by the pitch.
"I hit that ball pretty far off him," Harper replied, "so no, not really."
Teheran said that he didn't hit Harper on purpose.
"I didn't want to make a mistake like I did with the homer. That's how I hit him," Teheran said. "I got upset because I didn't want to hit him. So when he said that to me, that's when I started working."
"I think he was trying to go in on him, fastball in," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "The fastball that he hit for a home run was out over the plate. I think he was just trying to go with a fastball in and might have held onto it a little bit and got him in the thigh."
McCann said that Harper took too long to round the bases after his home run, which landed in the batter's eye in center field.
"Yeah, he sat there for a little bit," McCann said. "But it is what it is."
While Teheran said that he didn't pay attention to Harper's home run trot and was only concentrating on the next batter, Ryan Zimmerman, the reigning National League Rookie of the Year Award winner thought otherwise.
"It's part of the game, like I said," Harper said. "If I walk off on somebody and he wants to drill me, I'll let him drill me and I'll stand on first base and say some choice words and get over it."
As the skirmish ended, pitchers returned to their respective bullpens and the field was cleared. West issued a warning to both clubs, and Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez said that he was reminded of the warning three times. Nationals manager Davey Johnson said that West told him that he didn't think that Teheran intentionally hit Harper because the pitch was low.
Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said that Harper was still upset even when the ordeal had calmed down. Harper didn't say anything at first base.
"Usually, I talk to everybody. But I left him alone," Freeman said. "When he hit the single [in the seventh inning] and came down, he was fine. So I think it was totally heat of the moment."
Even the Braves' and Nationals' official Twitter accounts chimed in. The Braves tweeted, "Clown move bro," to which the Nationals responded, "Which part, giving up the home run, or drilling the 20-year-old on the first pitch his next time up?"
@Braves Which part, giving up the home run, or drilling the 20-year-old on the first pitch his next time up?- Washington Nationals (@Nationals) August 7, 2013
Teheran retired the next two batters to end the inning. Gio Gonzalez pitched two more innings and did not retaliate. He said that retaliation would have been "selfish."
"I think that it's a tough situation to go about," he said. "You want to protect your guys as much as possible. Again, Bryce, it's a tough situation. It's a tough way to answer that one. I think the best way to do it is go out there and shut them down two more innings and give your team a chance to come back and hurt them the other way, try to get a win."
Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche, who played with the Braves for 3 1/2 years and said he was familiar with Teheran, couldn't tell whether the right-hander had hit Harper on purpose.
"I don't know. It's a pretty convenient situation to do it in," LaRoche said. "If he did, that's pretty weak."
Fredi Gonzalez said that he was pleased with how West and his crew handled the situation.
"Boys being boys," he said. "Everybody settled down and just went back to playing baseball."
Tom Schad is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.