Benches clear twice in Nationals-Cubs game, four ejected

September 6, 2012
Bryce Harper
Alex Brandon/AP

Nationals and Cubs players and coaches got into two heated bench-clearing exchanges, the second including shoving between players in the sixth inning of Thursday’s game at Nationals Park.

The second and most animated scuffle occurred in the sixth inning when Bryce Harper was batting and Cubs pitcher Lendy Castillo threw a ball far inside. Harper wasn’t hit but he and other Nationals players were incensed. Home plate umpire Jerry Layne and catcher Steve Clevenger stepped out in front of Harper to restrain him, and players from both dugouts streamed out. Jayson Werth jumped out to hold back Harper, who was also restrained by Ryan Zimmerman. Harper didn’t get any closer to the mound.

The commotion died down but near first base Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo put his hand on Nationals reliever Michael Gonzalez’s shoulder, possibly to make peace or to send him away. Gonzalez turned, pointing back at another Cubs player and shouting. Players converged again, bullpen coach Jim Lett rushing to pull Gonzalez back. 

Clevenger pushed Nationals outfielder Michael Morse, which escalated the fight. Hitting coach Rick Eckstein could be seen holding reliever Sean Burnett back; other Nationals players pulled Morse and a heated Edwin Jackson back. Clevenger also seemed to reach out at Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond.

Clevenger was ejected from the game, as were Cubs pitcher Manuel Corpas and Nationals reliever Michael Gonzalez.

The first bench-clearing exchange occurred in the previous inning, when Nationals third base coach Bo Porter and Chicago Cubs bench coach Jamie Quirk got into a shouting match at the steps of the Cubs’ dugout.

Werth was batting with two outs in the bottom of fifth and the Nationals leading 7-2 when Clevenger went into the dugout to change his glove. During the delay, Porter approached the Cubs’ dugout, jawing something to the effect of “That’s how we … play.” On replay, Quirk can be seen pointing and yelling at Porter before he came to the dugout. Cubs Manager Dale Sveum stepped in to separate them.

Players streamed onto the field from both dugouts and from the bullpens. Umpires settled the heated discussion and players quickly dispersed. Quirk was ejected from the game; Porter was not.

It’s not immediately clear what prompted the exchange between Quirk and Porter.

The Nationals have handled the Cubs easily much of the series, bashing 14 home runs to that point in three games. In the fifth with a five-run lead, they stole two bases and Werth swung at a 3-0 pitch. The aggressive play in such a situation might have incited the Cubs, who have the second-worst record in baseball.

Nationals Manager Davey Johnson has been unapologetic about his team’s style of play, believing all season that, despite a lead, his players should not let up. 

“I never want my team to ever quit competing and I don’t expect the team we’re playing to ever quit competing,” he said after a 14-2 win over the Giants in mid-August. “Until you get to your closer with an eight-run lead and have him available, too many things can happen in this game. It’s a losing attitude when you take things for granted. We didn’t run over at home when I wanted us to run. We shut it down, and I said ‘That can’t happen.’ As it was, it turned out in that game they came back and had the winning run at the plate. So the people that dictate, ‘Well, we’ll play behind in the third inning and think we’re going to quit competing,’ they’re sadly mistaken. They can come after me. But my players are going to keep competing.”

James Wagner joined the Post in August 2010 and, prior to covering the Nationals, covered high school sports across the region.
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James Wagner · September 6, 2012