Nationals-Phillies rivalry ratchets up another notch

CLEARWATER, Fla. - The Nationals and Phillies have had some interesting interactions over the years.

John Lannan hit Chase Utley with a pitch in a 2007 start, breaking Utley's hand. Lannan was ejected from that game, which was his first major league start.

Last season, Bryce Harper was drilled in the back by Cole Hamels, who acknowledged after the game that he hit Harper intentionally. Harper responded by stealing home later in that inning. Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo responded by calling Hamels "fake-tough."

This afternoon, in an early March spring training game at Bright House Field, we had the next chapter in the rivalry between these two teams.

With runners at the corners and one out in the third inning this afternoon, Stephen Strasburg hit Utley on the left ankle with a fastball.

The next half-inning, Roy Halladay threw a pitch behind the back of the Nationals' Tyler Moore.

A bit ago, Halladay told Philly reporters that his pitch to Moore "slipped."

The veteran right-hander then smiled, according to those in attendance for the interview.

"Really, I think, we do need to protect our guys to an extent," Halladay then said, unprovoked. "I'm not saying that's what happened. It slipped. But that's important. We've had a lot of guys hit over the years. As a staff, we need to do a good job of protecting those guys. Spring training, you're not necessarily trying to do it. But it wouldn't have been the worst thing had it got him after hitting one of our good guys."

Strasburg said he didn't throw at Utley intentionally, and that his pitch slipped, a result of a stiff wind and a dry baseball.

"I don't have any reason to throw at him, do I?" Strasburg said.

Strasburg was then asked whether he was surprised to then see Halladay throw behind Moore.

"It's up to them," Strasburg said. "I mean, I don't understand why they'd think I was throwing at him. Obviously, you can tell the conditions weren't great, and I yanked it in there. It's spring training, so if you're gonna throw at somebody or give a message in spring training, go ahead."

Strangely enough, back on Feb. 13, Halladay said the following, according to Philadelphia reports: "I know Chase suggested drilling a few guys this year, so I might mix that in."

The Nationals and Phillies meet for the first time this season at Nationals Park from May 24-26.

Mark your calendars.

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