Three years ago, the Giants played the Nationals in the 2014 NLDS. Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper faced Giants reliever Hunter Strickland in game one, and mashed a home run into the third deck in Nationals Park. In the third game, Harper hit a homerun off Strickland into McCovey Cove in AT&T Park in San Francisco. All of that boiled into a rivalry between the two players, with them yelling at each other in the dugouts over the past three years. Then, on Memorial Day 2017, Harper came to bat against Strickland for the first time since the 2014 division series, and on the first pitch, Strickland intentionally hit Harper on the hip, and Harper pointed his bat, approached him, and hit him in the nose, and then the dugouts raced out.
The incident lead to suspensions for Strickland (6) and Harper (3). Many analysts and players sided with Harper. MLB analyst and New York Post columnist Joel Sherman called the intentional hit by pitch “selfish” and “unnecessary.” Many Giants fans were quick to call out Strickland, one twitter user with a Giants logo as his avatar said, “It’s disappointing that you incited this on Memorial Day.”
Harper, though, did throw his helmet and throw punches on Memorial Day, and many were quick to attack Harper based on his actions against umpires in the past. Twice he’s been thrown out for slamming his helmet in retaliation, once in Miami when he grounded into a double play and was frustrated, and another on a blown strike three call in the ninth inning. Later his teammate first baseman Clint Robinson hit a walk off home run, and even though he was thrown out, he ran onto the field, shouted an expletive, and was suspended for one game.
Harper has been intentionally hit before. He was hit by former Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels in his first at bat against the Phillies; he was hit by Braves pitcher Julio Teheran whom Harper has owned in his career and Harper had some words to him. Reds pitcher Tony Cingrani threw at Harper before, too, and Harper yelled at him also. Not only that, but Harper was injured against the Pirates thanks to a bad tag by Pirates third baseman Jung-ho Kang which caused Harper to take a bad slide. Long story short, Harper has had some pitchers not liking him before.
Why do pitchers throw at Harper? Well, the short answer is, as Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said, “I want him to play 100 mph with his hair on fire.” Harper is an intense guy, and has said and done some stuff that people in and outside of baseball don’t like, and Nationals fans are quick to defend, but it seems like no one is really defending either except people saying, “That jerk [Harper] deserved it.”
Why did Harper charge the mound? Let’s see what happens when you throw at an intense ballplayer with a 98 mph fastball. If Angels outfielder Mike Trout was getting thrown at every single year, you bet at some point he would’ve charged the mound. One bad intentional throw and the player’s career could be over, whether it be to the face, the knee, or the hip. Red Sox pitcher Matt Barnes threw at Orioles third baseman Manny Machado, an unlikable player in the baseball community, to the face after Machado accidentally injured Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia with a bad slide. If the pitch had hit Machado in his jaw, let alone his nose or eyes, Machado could’ve been out a long time. Now, Harper wasn’t thrown at to the face, but a 98 mph fastball hurts. The fact that it was a three year old grudge made it more unnecessary, too.
Many people on both sides are questioning Giants catcher Buster Posey’s decision to not go and “back up” his teammates.
“[Giants first baseman] Michael Morse who’s as big as they come was getting knocked around like a pinball,” Posey said, “It just wasn’t safe to go in.”
Many people took his statement as not agreeing with his pitcher’s decision to throw at Harper, and let Harper get a few licks in, others took it as he didn’t want to get hurt.
Morse went and tried to break up the fight between his current teammate and former teammate. You can even see Harper go down with his punch so he didn’t hit Morse. The reason why Morse ended up on the seven day concussion DL was when Giants pitcher Jeff Samardzija body slammed Morse and tried to hit Harper. Other attacks came from the Nationals side, like pitcher Tanner Roark’s and third baseman Anthony Rendon’s body slams.
Harper and Strickland served their suspensions and are back on their respective rosters. Morse should be returning back from the DL soon after his collision.
Recently, Nationals closer Koda Glover struckout Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig to end the game on a slider way out of the zone on Tuesday. Glover showed his emotion and Puig didn’t like it, who is ironically a player who doesn’t shy away from his feelings on the field, yelled at Glover for showing him up. The benches cleared, and Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who held back Harper during the fight with Strickland, grabbed Glover so their wasn’t a tussle in the West again. A big pitching matchup on Wednesday between Nationals Stephen Strasburg and the two time Cy Young award winner Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw face off tonight, and it should be an exciting matchup considering the ending of Tuesday’s game.