In the bottom of the fifth Jayson Werth swung at a 3-0 pitch with the Nationals up by five runs. Chicago bench coach Jamie Quirk took offense with Nationals third base coach Bo Porter and the benches emptied.
In the bottom of the sixth inning Chicago pitcher Lendy Castillo threw at Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper. After the pitch missed him Harper threatened to charge the mound before being held back by Cubs catcher Steve Clevenger. Things calmed down for a second then both benches and the bullpens emptied as players rushed the field. Pushing and shoving ensued before order was restored.
If you are a Nationals fan this is great. It means that teams finally respect Washington enough to try and rile them. No one likes to see a doormat overtake them whether they are in their division or not. Like everyone else in baseball the Cubs are used to having their way with the Nationals. Those days seem to be over and Chicago knows it. The four game sweep which took place from Monday through Thursday proves it.
It was great to see Harper show some fire. It was great to see the Nationals charge the field even if it meant costing some players suspensions during a pennant race. It is about time that teams showed the Nationals some respect, because they’ve earned it with their play this summer.
It is moments like this that bring teams together in September and October. The Nationals know that they are the hunted now. They know that teams are going to come after them. They will do whatever it takes to avoid confrontation, but teammates know that they have each others back. They will need to, because Harper is a target.
His hustle and enthusiasm have rubbed a lot of opponents the wrong way. In the four game series with Chicago he killed them at the plate. In his first at bat Thursday Harper tripled then scored on a ground out to the pitcher. This hustle is applauded when you are on the winning side. When you are not it is looked at with disdain. The Cubs are not winning.
Bench clearing brawls, injuries caused by them and player suspensions are not what the Nationals want. But the respect of their opponents is.
It is great to see teams try to rile the Nationals. It is great to see Washington not back down and pound them some more.
It’s about time that there is someone else on the short end of the stick.