Harper plunked again, but Nats stay civil in loss
ATLANTA — The Braves' repeated plunkings of Bryce Harper are now preventing the Nationals star from taking the field.
Harper was scratched from tonight's lineup with a bruised upper left arm, in the area where he was hit by Luis Avilan's fastball during the eighth inning of Friday night's loss at Turner Field, the third time he has been plunked in the Nationals' last three games against Atlanta.
"I'm not happy with it," manager Davey Johnson said today from his office next to the Nationals clubhouse. "I know everybody in that room is not happy with it."
The Nationals have refrained from retaliating to this point, both because of specific game situations and because warnings were issued to both dugouts after Harper was hit, mandating automatic ejections and suspensions for pitchers and managers if there is a subsequent plunking.
Johnson, though, doesn't expect any warnings to be issued at the start of tonight's game. And while he insisted he wouldn't call for any retaliation himself, the 70-year-old skipper suggested he wouldn't be surprised if something did happen.
"I never order a pitcher to go after anybody," Johnson said. "But we have a way of protecting our own."
Harper was initially hit by Julio Teheran on Aug. 6 in Washington, two innings after he homered off the Braves right-hander and took longer than usual to round the bases. Harper jawed at Teheran that night, prompting both dugouts and bullpens to empty.
There were no incidents the following night when the two teams played again at Nationals Park, but then Harper was hit twice by pitches in Friday night's series opener in Atlanta. Left-hander Alex Wood got him with a 77-mph curveball in the fourth inning. Avilan then drilled him in the upper left arm, near his back and neck, in the eighth inning, leaving Harper bent over in obvious pain.
"Certainly, in a close ballgame, he got hit with a curveball," Johnson said. "I don't think anything about that. But then they got their best left-handed reliever in there, and our best hitter coming up. That's not a situation where you want to hit a guy. For what? So it's total ignorance, or being wild. I'm not sure which it is at this point."
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez immediately pulled Avilan from the game; the crowd of 35,663 gave the reliever a standing ovation as he departed. Plate umpire Marty Foster issued formal warnings to both dugouts, a decision the Nationals objected because it offered them no opportunity to respond without facing ejections and suspensions.
"I'm a little frustrated in that we had a bunch of close ballgames, and we're trying to catch them and after it happens we keep getting another warning," Johnson said. "It kinda puts a damper on things."
Harper was originally in the Nationals' lineup tonight, leading off and playing center field against left-hander Mike Minor. But after taking some swings in the batting tunnel, he and head athletic trainer Lee Kuntz walked into Johnson's office and informed the manager he was in too much discomfort to play.
Denard Span will replace Harper in the lineup.