Why Nats didn’t retaliate for Harper plunkings

NEW YORK - Some more thoughts and reactions from Tuesday night’s 3-0 loss to the Yankees, plus a look ahead to tonight’s game in the Bronx ...

* A good number of fans wanted to know why the Nationals didn’t immediately retaliate after Bryce Harper was twice hit by pitches late in the game. To which I’d reply: Harper wasn’t upset by any of it. And also, did you actually watch what transpired?

Look, nobody was happy that Harper got drilled twice, in the right elbow by CC Sabathia and in the left foot by Dellin Betances. The good news, though, was that Harper said X-rays of his foot were fine and manager Davey Martinez said his slugger will be back in the lineup tonight.

Harper hit Yankees.jpgBut there was zero reason to even question whether there was purpose behind Sabathia and Betances’ errant pitches. Sabathia hit Harper with a first-pitch fastball in the top of the fifth, but that came with a runner already on first base and the Nationals trailing by two runs. In reaching base, Harper now represented the tying run. Not exactly a situation in which a veteran pitcher would purposely drill a batter.

Betances, meanwhile, hit Harper with an 0-2 slider in the top of the eighth. If you’re trying to hit a guy, that’s not how you do it.

So don’t get upset at the Nationals for not instructing Wander Suero to throw at Giancarlo Stanton in the bottom of the eighth. Unless you want them to start an unnecessary bench-clearing brawl that leads the ejections and suspensions. And if you don’t buy my argument, just listen to Harper’s response when asked if he was upset about the plunkings.

“No. Not at all,” he said. “Just hurt. That was it. No ill feelings at all.”

* Daniel Murphy didn’t have a great season debut. He went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, and his swings in his first few at-bats weren’t particularly pretty.

But Murphy did look a lot better in his final at-bat. Even though he eventually struck out against Betances in the eighth, he fouled off seven consecutive pitches at one point.

In the bigger picture, Martinez was happy with what he saw from Murphy.

“His timing could have been a little off,” the manager said. “But I know he’s going to hit. So we get him back and see how he feels tomorrow, and then we’ll go from there. But he’s going to be fine.”

Assuming his surgically repaired knee came out of the game fine, Murphy will be back in the lineup tonight, most likely serving as designated hitter again.

* Erick Fedde will indeed get the start tonight. Martinez confirmed what seemed pretty obvious earlier in the day: Fedde will be recalled from Triple-A Syracuse and start against the Yankees.

It’s no easy assignment for the rookie right-hander, but he was lined up properly to take the rotation spot that opened up after Stephen Strasburg landed on the DL with shoulder inflammation.

Martinez may not ask for much out of Fedde. If he can give them five quality innings, the Nationals bullpen is rested enough to cover the remaining four frames, especially with another off-day looming Thursday in Toronto.

Though Martinez announced the Fedde promotion after Tuesday night’s game, he said a corresponding move wouldn’t be announced until today. For what it’s worth, though, reliever Trevor Gott was spotted packing his bag and clearing out his locker after Tuesday’s game.

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