Before we put this week’s series with the Braves forever in the dustbin of D.C. sports history, here’s former Braves pitcher Paul Byrd, offering his view. Byrd now works as an Atlanta postgame analyst on Fox Sports South, and he’s obviously coming at things from a Braves angle, but it’s still pretty harsh.
This happened during an interview with Atlanta radio station 680 The Fan, when a host asked Byrd whether he thought the Braves would have to answer for hitting Bryce Harper before this season ends.
“I do think something’s going to come in the future, they will have to pay,” Byrd said on Thursday. “But I’ll tell you what, I think that pitch was the exclamation point on the whole series, and I was surprised the Nats laid down. And what I mean by that is the Nats had to win [Wednesday] night, if not for the division [then] just to make the wild card. Every game is crucial. They needed to come out on fire, angry that their best player was hit.
“And whether it was on purpose or not doesn’t matter,” Byrd continued. “Your best player was hit; it didn’t look good. They needed to come out on fire, and in a tie game Harper doesn’t hustle a ball out down to first – he ALWAYS hustles. Davey Johnson has to go down and talk to him. And the Braves were playing like the team that had to win. You know, they were stepping on their neck and just excited – Gosh, they have such a good thing going.
“And the Nationals seemed to lay down after that incident, and it really surprised me,” Byrd said. “Like I said, I think it just really put an exclamation point on the season, and I think after that, the Nats have kind of thrown in the towel as far as catching the Braves….”
Later, a host asked Byrd if he would have plunked Bryce Harper in that situation.
“You’ve got to be a competitor, you’ve got to pitch inside, you’ve got to own the inside part of the plate, you have to hit players and stick up for your teammates,” he said. “You saw what happened with Bryce Harper. If they would have knocked somebody down or done something to stick up for [him], it may have given the Nationals some life. And they didn’t do it. You don’t have to hit anybody to make your statement, but as a pitcher, you do have to own that inside part of the plate.”