And then there was Bryce Harper, who even when he doesn’t intend it is somehow at the center of the action. He, too, sat hunched over at his locker. A bandage on the back of his left arm poked out from under his grey polo shirt, the result of yet another baseball from a Braves pitcher to his body. He sustained, in fact, two pitches to the body Friday in an ongoing saga between the two sides. Harper wasn’t in the mood for talking.
Not only do the Nationals have their sinking season to occupy their minds, but now they have another matter to ponder. What are they going to do when one of their best players continues to get plunked?
“You know, that’s one of those things we take care of in-house,” Werth said. “That’s just part of the game. I’m not going to speak publicly about it.”
The Nationals yet again stumbled against their division rival, with the National League East race all but determined. Their razor thin playoff hopes took yet another blow thanks to shoddy defense, a lack of timely hitting and a hanging curveball to one of baseball’s hottest hitters. There was little to play for Friday except perhaps pride. And even then, the Braves smashed that hope. Insult was literally added to injury.
Asked whether he thought Harper was an intentional target, Manager Davey Johnson shook his head.
“I hope not because it’s ridiculous in a close ballgame,” he said. “And they’ve got a lot more to lose than we do at this point. So it would be a ridiculous thing to be doing.”
For the second time in three meetings, Harper was bruised by Braves pitching. Even though pitcher Julio Teheran denied it, the Nationals still believe Harper was intentionally hit Aug. 6 in his at-bat following a towering home run off Teheran. On Friday, Harper didn’t appear to be an intentional target, but the circumstances were certainly regrettable.
When Harper took the batter’s box for each at-bat, many of the 35,663 in attendance booed, the same way he was treated last season and has been treated all season. Rookie left-handed starter Alex Wood, who fooled the Nationals for 61
3 innings, unleashed a curveball that hit Harper in the back between his shoulder blades.
Unlike when he shouted at Teheran and the benches cleared, Harper walked to first base quietly and even shared smiles with Freddie Freeman. Leading 2-0, hitting the leadoff hitter who has struggled against left-handed pitching this season didn’t seem like the situation for a retaliatory move. But two at-bats later, Harper’s reaction wasn’t as subdued.