With the Nationals once again struggling to score runs Sunday, perhaps the most exciting moment occurred when Washington was at the plate two pitches into the top of the first inning.
That’s when manager Jim Riggleman stormed from the dugout to argue after home plate umpire Todd Tichenor overruled what looked to be a leadoff bunt single by left fielder Roger Bernandina because Bernadina had stepped on home plate.
The heated exchange turned into Riggleman’s second ejection this year, although he admitted afterwards Tichenor’s call was right. Bernadina also said when he looked at the television replay later, he could tell he had touched the plate.
But in the process of explaining that bench coach John McLaren was responsible for the the decision-making upon his early exit Sunday, Riggleman revealed he had some issues a year ago when he was ejected from an unspecified Nationals game.
“I couldn’t sit down there. It was too visual for the umpires,” said Riggleman, referencing the visitor’s dugout at Camden Yards. “I had that last year. I got thrown out and the umpire saw where I was sitting and I got disciplined for that, so I had to be up [in the clubhouse].”
And even though Riggleman and Bernadina were willing to admit that Tichenor’s call was correct, it didn’t stop several Nationals players and coaches from expressing just how surprised they were to see something so trivial called two pitches into a game.
“It’s one of those calls you never wanna see called against you,” McLaren said.
The play proved even more significant when shortstop Ian Desmond hit a double in the next at bat, a hit that could have potentially driven in Bernadina from first base.
But Riggleman squashed any questions about whether he got himself ejected so early as a motivational ploy for his struggling offense.
“I was just irritated,” Riggleman said. “If managers are getting thrown out of ballgames, if that’s what it takes to fire up a ballclub, then you’re in trouble.”