Bryce Harper leaves the field Sunday after being ejected.
There's been plenty of debate about Bryce Harper's ejection following a check-swing call by John Hirschbeck in the top of the first inning, whether Harper actually did enough to warrant getting tossed and whether Hirschbeck provoked the whole thing with his response to Harper's initial reaction.
Well, check out this video clip of the play in question from the Pirates' TV broadcast (and posted on Twitter last night by follower @rocket1124)...
Two things immediately stand out:
1) Hirschbeck throws his arms out and starts yapping barely a split-second after Harper questions the call, a remarkably quick response from an umpire who almost appears as though he was trying to get into an argument.
2) Hirschbeck later told a pool reporter he ejected Harper only after he "slammed" his bat and helmet to the ground: "I was actually just being nice. Even the hands up in the air is showing me up, to me. I could have ejected him right then. I was nice enough to leave him in the game. And then he slammed his bat down. And then on top of that, he slammed his helmet. I had no other recourse, really." I defy anyone to watch that replay and claim that what Harper did to his bat or his helmet fits the definition of "slammed." ...
OK, onto a more positive item about Harper. Barring a truly bizarre turn of events, he'll be in the Nationals' lineup tonight in his familiar No. 3 spot. That will mark the 32nd time Harper has hit third for the Nats this season, all but the one game he missed in Miami while battling the flu.
What you may not realize — I certainly didn't realize it until reading this excellent piece by John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press — is that Harper will most likely become only the second 20-year-old in baseball history to bat third for at least 100 games.
The other 20-year-old to do it: Al Kaline, the Tigers Hall of Famer who in 1955 won the AL batting title with a .340 average while homering 27 times and driving in 102 runs.
Kaline has become quite a Bryce Harper fan, as he explained to Lowe in that piece. "I watch him every chance I get. I'm a big fan of his — the way he plays the game, the all-out effort he puts in." ...
Harper figures to be in the Nationals lineup tonight, but there's a good chance Jayson Werth won't be joining him. Even though the veteran right fielder says his hamstring feels much better than it did Thursday night when he was forced out of the series finale in Atlanta, Davey Johnson suggested he'll hold Werth out again for the first game of the Detroit series.
"I don't know if he'll be ready," the manager said after Sunday's win. "Hamstring's not something I mess around with. If you just go back, [the Dodgers' Matt] Kemp came back early from a hamstring and he went down again. And that's something, I'm going to make sure we're completely by. I've had my fingers crossed with [Wilson] Ramos that it wouldn't be any repercussions, and today he was fine from two games [in a row]. He ran the bases real good and hopefully we're by him. But we've got to be real cautious on JW." ...
As much as the Nationals would like to have Werth back, it might be a blessing in disguise if he misses tonight's game. Why? Because of the man on the mound for the Tigers: Anibal Sanchez, who has owned Werth over their respective careers.
Werth's numbers against the right-hander: 5-for-30 with one homer, one walk and 19 strikeouts. Yikes.
Then again, Sanchez pretty much owns anybody who steps to the plate wearing a Nationals uniform. In 19 career starts against them, he's 8-0 with a 1.97 ERA.
Who'd have thought the Nats might actually be upset they're missing Justin Verlander during this series?