PITTSBURGH - Bryce Harper's second career ejection came just 14 pitches into this afternoon's ballgame.
With two outs in the top of the first, Harper tried to check his swing on a two-strike curveball from Wandy Rodriguez. Third base umpire John Hirschbeck rung Harper up, and Harper threw his hands up in the air in frustration.
Hirschbeck then imitated Harper's reaction, throwing his hands up in a similar fashion. Harper stood at the plate staring at Hirschbeck while home plate umpire Bob Davidson came over to chat with the Nationals' 20-year-old outfielder.
Harper continued to talk out at Hirschbeck and, after a few seconds, Hirschbeck gave Harper the heave-ho.
Nats manager Davey Johnson sprinted out of the dugout to talk to Hirschbeck, and Harper finally retreated to the Nats dugout. He's been replaced in left field by Roger Bernadina.
We obviously don't know what was said, and Harper is at fault for his part in the incident, but it sure looked like Hirschbeck was more animated and confrontational than he needed to be. Umpires don't like to be shown up and Harper made an animated gesture after being called out on strikes, but if Hirschbeck turns and walks away, the incident ends then and there.
Harper's first career ejection came in the ninth inning of a game in Miami last Aug. 29. He had homered twice previously in the game, but spiked his helmet to the ground after grounding into a double play.
First base umpire C.B. Bucknor immediately tossed Harper from the game.
After the game, Johnson said that Harper needed to learn to find a way to calm himself during games.
"Bryce couldn't control his emotions again," Johnson said. "I had a little chat with him. He'll get over it. He's just a hundred-percenter. He expects great things out of himself, breaks bats, throws his helmet. He's just got to stop it. We can't afford to be losing him in a ballgame. He'll learn. He's young."
Update: This game sure hasn't started like the Nationals would have hoped.
Harper was ejected, Gio Gonzalez gave up a homer to Starling Marte on his first pitch of the game, Ryan Zimmerman committed his fifth throwing error of the season and Gonzalez loaded the bases with none out.
The good news is that Gonzalez was able to work out of the jam allowing just the one run, but he needed 27 pitches to get through the first inning.
Zimmerman's error came on a routine grounder to third. He took a step to his right and gloved the ball, but his throw to first was up the line. It hit Andrew McCutchen in the back, allowing the Pirates center fielder to reach safely.
It's 1-0 Pirates after one.
Update II: Here's video of the Harper/Hirschbeck incident, for those who missed it.
Danny Espinosa has three RBIs so far today, and the Nats have a 3-1 lead midway through the fourth. Espinosa scalded a ball to deep center in the second, a long drive that McCutchen hauled in at the wall. Zimmerman tagged and scored from third on the play, tying the game.
In the fourth, Espinosa got a hanging curve from Rodriguez and destroyed it out to left for a two-run shot. It's Espinosa's third homer of the year and it gives the Nats their first lead of the day.
Normally a better hitter from the right side, Espinosa did not have an RBI all season hitting right-handed entering today. He's got three of them this afternoon.
Update III: Gonzalez allowed the first four batters he faced this afternoon to reach base, although one of those reached on Zimmerman's error.
It was a rocky start, but Gonzalez did well to settle in, and he leaves today's game having allowed just two runs over six solid innings.
Here's the left-hander's line: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 5 K, 1 HR, 102 pitches, 63 strikes.
He set down 12 of 14 during one stretch and even though he allowed a run in the sixth on Martin's RBI double, Gonzalez still has a shot at his third win of the season.
The Nats lead 3-2 going to the seventh.