Bryce Harper has been hit twice tonight.
The first time came on the first pitch thrown by Alex Wood in a fourth-inning Harper at-bat, a breaking ball that got Harper in the back. Harper calmly turned around and trotted to first base.
Braves fans cheered that plunking with gusto.
The second time came on the first pitch thrown by Luis Avilan in an eighth-inning Harper at-bat, a 91 mph fastball that got Harper in the upper back. Harper bent over at the waist, in clear pain, as Braves fans rose to their feet to applaud Avilan’s actions.
Nationals players came to the top step of the dugout and leaned out over the railing, clearly less than pleased with how their 20-year-old left fielder has been treated by the Braves’ pitching staff lately.
Home plate umpire Marty Foster issued warnings to both benches as Harper eventually made his way down to first base.
This all comes two weeks after Harper was drilled in the first pitch of an at-bat against Julio Teheran, leading to a benches-clearing incident. No punches were thrown after that plunking, but the Nationals didn’t forget about the whole thing.
Neither time that Harper was hit today did he aggressively look out towards the mound or make any movements towards the pitcher who hit him. He went to first base and kept his mouth shut.
But it will be very interesting to see how the Nationals handle this. They can’t let the Braves continue to drill their star young outfielder (even if the first hit-by-pitch today came on a breaking ball that seemed to harmlessly slip out of Wood’s hand), but with warnings issued and this game still close, there are implications here beyond the need to stand up for a teammate.
Meanwhile, Jayson Werth followed Harper’s plunking by delivering a two-out RBI single to right that knotted this game 2-2.
Ryan Zimmerman came around from second on the play, and we have a brand new ballgame in the ninth.
Craig Stammen worked a clean bottom of the eighth and while he pitched inside to Chris Johnson a few times, Stammen did not retaliate by drilling anyone.
Craig Kimbrel will work the ninth for the Braves.
Update: The Nats squandered a big chance against Kimbrel in the ninth, when they put two runners on with one out and the go-ahead run at third with two outs.
They couldn’t capitalize.
Up with runners at first and second and one out, Steve Lombardozzi grounded into a fielder’s choice, pushing Kurt Suzuki to third after he had pinch-run for Wilson Ramos. Denard Span then grounded out to Kimbrel to end the threat.
Drew Storen came on for the bottom of the ninth and outside of a one-out single by Andrelton Simmons, Storen was really sharp. He struck out Jordan Schafer looking at a backdoor slider and got pinch-hitter Evan Gattis swinging at a slider down below the zone. Then, Storen closed out the inning by retiring pinch-hitter Gerald Laird on a liner to right.
To the 10th we go.
Update II: Justin Upton does it again.
Upton launched a walk-off homer off Ian Krol with one out in the bottom of the 10th, giving the Braves a 3-2 win.
That’s the third game-ending home run of Upton’s career and second this season.
Another crushing loss for this Nationals team, that drops to three games under .500.