Breaking down the Nats, Cubs fracas

Beanballs,Sports,Brian McNally

In a way you couldn’t blame the Chicago Cubs. In the midst of a terrible season, the start of what could be a long rebuilding process, they came into Washington for a four-game series and were bludgeoned out of town. They were outscored 31-9 and gave up an astounding 15 home runs. Check out the details in our game story here as Jordan Zimmermann pitched a fine game five days after the worst outing of his career on the way to a 9-2 Nationals victory.

But the game was marred by two bench-clearing incidents. Down 7-2 in the fifth inning, bench coach Jamie Quirk had enough and started a shouting match with Nats third base coach Bo Porter that sparked the outbursts – though only the second one amounted to much.

Apparently Quirk was unhappy that up 7-2 Washington stole two bases and then had Jayson Werth swing away on a 3-0 pitch with two outs and the bases loaded. That seems a bit over the top and certainly wouldn’t fly with the Nats, who two months ago blew a 9-0 lead to the Braves. That rally started in the sixth inning.

“I think I’d be pretty pissed off if I was getting my teeth kicked in all [week], too, but you can’t lay down,” said rookie outfielder Bryce Harper, who was almost hit by Cubs pitcher Lendy Castillo with the first pitch of the bottom of the sixth inning.

To be fair, Chicago manager Dale Sveum told CSN Chicago that Castillo, a Rule 5 draft pick, doesn’t exactly have the greatest control at this point in his career. The Nats weren’t sure what to believe. The pitch didn’t hit Harper, after all, but he did have to  jackknife out of the way.

“It was just unfortunate that a guy threw a ball behind him,” Washington manager Davey Johnson said. “We heard from one of the guys we know over there that said it definitely wasn’t ordered from the bench so I don’t know the whole story there, but I thought [Harper] handled it pretty good.”

Indeed, nothing good could come of a fight for the Nats, who are a virtual lock for the postseason at this point. A twisted ankle or a broken finger or a suspension – only reliever Michael Gonzalez was ejected and that seemingly because someone from Washington had to go – and the team in the pennant race suffers. Chicago is going home in three weeks anyway.

“We got a lot more to lose,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said. “And I think that’s what Davey and [bench coach] Randy [Knorr] and the guys, [first base coach] Trent [Jewett], were trying to get everybody back and say ‘Listen, if one of us does something it’s going to cost us a lot more than one of their guys at this point in the year.’ So I think for them most part guys kept their head on their shoulders. It didn’t get too out of control. That’s not what we need this time of year.”

It came close though. After Harper took a few steps towards Castillo and mouthed some obscenities, veteran Jayson Werth was out of the dugout and in front of home plate in a flash to hold him back. Ryan Zimmerman was there, too, to keep the rookie calm.

And it all worked. The Cubs were headed back to their dugout, the Nats to theirs, the relievers were walking back to the bullpens. But Chicago pitcher Manuel Corpas couldn’t leave well enough alone and he and Gonzalez started jawing near first base. Corpas eventually threw a punch in the ensuing scrum, crew chief Jerry Layne told a pool reporter, though it didn’t connect. He was ejected simply for instigating the situation. Gonzalez was tossed, too, as was Cubs catcher Steve Clevenger.

Multiple Nats players mentioned that Atlanta game on July 20 and that blown 9-0 lead. It is one that has loomed over their season given the Braves are chasing them still for the National League East title. Johnson has said repeatedly – and as recently as last week – that within reason he will chastise his club if he feels they are ever letting up on an opponent.

“Every time you start the game there’s two teams out there,” Porter said. “When I was younger I did Gold Glove boxing and my trainer would always tell me before the bell ring, he said ‘Just in case you didn’t know when this bell ring that guy over there he’s gonna hit back.”

Follow me on Twitter @bmcnally14

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