Harper said later he had become frustrated with Segal in an earlier at-bat, when a 3-0 pitch was called a strike, instead of ball four. The frustration mounted when that 1-0 pitch went against him — though it looked to just nick the bottom of the zone, a true borderline call.
Harper swung through the next two pitches, muttering all the while, then kicked the dirt and hollered when he struck out in frustration. Segal ejected him immediately, Harper’s 10th career ejection, at which point the 24-year-old jumped into Segal’s face before Daniel Murphy and third base coach Bobby Henley could intervene.
“That’s a tough lefty right there, so you never want to help him out,” said Harper, who admitted yelling, but didn’t remember using any profanities after the pitch, though he did kick the dirt after striking out a few pitches later.
“I didn’t really yell at him. I just yelled because I was mad that I struck out and he tossed me,” Harper said. “I don’t know why he tossed me. I don’t know if he tossed me because I kicked the dirt or he thought I was yelling at him, but at that point I was not trying to yell at him. I was just pretty fired up about striking out in a big situation like that.”
Harper’s ejection came at an inopportune moment in which his Nationals could not afford to lose him. They are so short on outfielders these days that Adam Lind — who has done a good job but smiles at himself after particularly long runs — is starting in left field, and rookie Andrew Stevenson — who began the year in Class AA, is their first outfielder off the bench. At one point this weekend, they had two healthy outfielders on their 40-man roster. As of Wednesday, not including Lind, they have three.
Somewhat surprisingly then, Dusty Baker did not express any dismay regarding Harper’s handling of the situation.
“I’d rather have a guy who plays with emotions than I guy who plays with no emotions. I’ll take that guy every day. You don’t have to pump him up to get him psyched to play,” Baker said. “ … I’m just fortunate that I had an extra player — Stevenson — to put in the game. I was going to hit Stevenson earlier.”
Harper said he was surprised Segal ejected him, his second ejection this season. When Segal kicked him out, Harper escalated, moving a step from him and hollering in his face, providing him an unsolicited tally of the calls he missed Wednesday evening.
“Before the game today, I think I need to change my playlist, because I get a little fired up from my playlist,” said Harper, citing a mix of Logic and Chance the Rapper as the instigators.
“ ‘5AM’ really got me fired up, by Logic. I called my brother and was like, ‘Man, I’m so fired up to play today,’ ” Harper said. “I guess it got me a little too fired up. I guess I need to mix in some Temptations and some of those jazz bands to calm me down a little bit.”