Following tonight’s 2-1 Nationals loss to the Braves, Bryce Harper calmly answered questions about being hit by a first-pitch, 94 mph Julio Teheran fastball in the fifth inning, a pitch that led to Harper taking a couple of steps towards the mound and shouting a few choice words at the Braves right-hander.
Harper felt the pitch was payback for his home run in the third inning, a solo shot that gave the Nats a 1-0 lead. Harper took a second or two to admire the homer and then tossed his bat toward the Nats dugout, similar to what Justin Upton did Monday night after a big eighth-inning homer.
Was Harper surprised that Teheran hit him in that spot?
“I hit that ball pretty far off him, so no, not really,” Harper said. “... Something he’s got to do. It’s part of the game and it’s something I guess he’s got to do.”
Harper never really made a convincing move toward the mound, but both benches and bullpens emptied anyway. Players and coaches milled around and there was some shouting from both sides before umpires got everyone back in their dugouts.
Harper was clearly upset by the whole situation, but he said he never had intentions of charging the mound.
“Nah, I wasn’t going to go out there,” he said. “I mean, 14 1/2 games down (in the division) and I need to be in the lineup. He’s got to do what he’s got to do. And it’s part of the game, like I said. If I walk-off on somebody and he wants to drill me, I’ll let him drill me and I’ll stand on first base and say some choice words and get over it.”
Catcher Brian McCann was one of the more animated Braves players during the incident, pointing and shouting at Harper as home plate umpire Joe West moved Harper towards first base. West then issued warnings to both teams.
“I mean, I’d do the same thing if I was McCann and I thought my pitcher was in danger,” Harper said. “I’d jump in front of him and do the same thing he did. It’s just part of the game. It’s something that they had to do.”
Off the record, multiple Nationals were clear that they felt Harper was drilled by Teheran on purpose. On the record, Adam LaRoche toed the line a bit.
“It’s a pretty convenient situation to do it in,” LaRoche said. “If he did (hit him intentionally), that’s pretty weak. If not, then the ball just got away from him trying to go in, which is not unusual when you’ve been pitching quite a bit. Especially coming off the plate just to kind of back you off, so I don’t know. You’ll have to get his take on it.”
Here’s Teheran’s take, courtesy of Atlanta reporters: “I was just trying to get in there (inside) like I don’t want to make a mistake like I did with the homer and that’s how I hit him,” he said.
Teheran was asked if he was upset by Harper’s slower-than-usual home run trot.
“No, I didn’t watch,” he said. “I was concentrating on the next batter. I didn’t watch at all.”
Nats manager Davey Johnson said he doesn’t blame Harper for reacting the way he did.
“I understand Harp. That’s why I asked West, if he feels he hit him intentionally, he can throw him out rather than give us a warning,” Johnson said. “He said largely (he just gave the warning) because it was downstairs. ...
“I don’t think Harp did anything when he hit the home run. It wasn’t nothing. I don’t know what he was thinking. I don’t know if he was trying to go inside and brush him back and he hit him in the leg. I thought Zim answered it right, he almost hit one out of the ballpark. That’s the way you answer that sort of thing. You file it for future reference. There’s nothing you can do at that time to level the playing field.”