PITTSBURGH - Bryce Harper left today’s series finale in the third inning after suffering an apparent left hand injury during an awkward slide into third base prompted by a fake tag from Jung Ho Kang that eventually prompted a benches-clearing scuffle between the Nationals and Pirates.
Harper led off the top of the third with a hit down the right field line, then tried to stretch it into a triple. The throw from right fielder Josh Bell missed the cutoff man and sailed well wide of third base, but Kang faked a tag attempt anyway, prompting Harper to make a late, awkward slide.
Harper appeared to jam his left hand into the base on the play, immediately crouched over in pain and said something to Kang. He remained in the game after a visit by manager Dusty Baker and head athletic trainer Paul Lessard, eventually scoring on Anthony Rendon’s infield single.
But when the bottom of the third arrived, Chris Heisey took over in right field for Harper. The Nationals, who don’t typically provide injury updates in-game, did not offer any immediate reason for Harper’s departure.
The Nationals clearly were upset with Kang’s deke, though. On his way back to the dugout after checking on Harper, manager Dusty Baker had words with Pirates manager Clint Hurdle.
And when Kang came up to bat in the bottom of the inning, he was greeted by a first-pitch fastball over his head from rookie right-hander A.J. Cole.
Plate umpire Jordan Baker immediately ejected Cole, prompting players from both sides to start barking. Pirates left fielder Sean Rodriguez appeared to be the first one out on the field, and he engaged in a long-distance shouting match with Nationals veterans Jayson Werth and Oliver Perez, who both came onto the field as well.
At that point, both dugouts emptied, with Rodriguez trying to go after Werth and Perez as teammates and coaches tried to hold everybody back. Both bullpens emptied as well before order was restored and the two sides retreated, Rodriguez having to be physically held back.
After a conference at the plate, the umpiring crew ejected Rodriguez as well, leaving one player from each side out of the game.
Update: Things have settled down here, and the game has continued without any more incidents so far. They’ve completed five innings, with the score now tied 5-5. Each team scored three runs in the first inning, the Nats getting RBI from Harper and Anthony Rendon. Harper’s third inning run (after getting hurt on the slide) made it 4-3. The Pirates responded with two runs in the bottom of the fourth off Mat Latos, but the Nats came back and tied the game again in the fifth on Brian Goodwin’s double.
Update II: What’s the last thing the Nationals wanted to see happen today? How about a two-run homer by Jung Ho Kang, who crushed a 96-mph fastball from Koda Glover into the second deck in left field, giving the Pirates a 7-5 lead in the bottom of the seventh.
Update III: Not so fast, my friend. The Nats have stormed right back and taken a 10-7 lead in the eighth. Jayson Werth, pinch-hitting for Jose Lobaton, crushed a two-run homer to center off old pal Felipe Rivero. Chris Heisey, who replaced Harper in right field way back when, then gave them the lead with an RBI single to center. Clint Robinson added an RBI single of his own, then Pedro Severino drew a bases-loaded walk. What a wild game this turned into.
Update IV: That’ll do it. Nats win 10-7, an utterly wild ballgame that included 17 total pitches (one shy of the MLB record for a nine-inning game) and 45 total players (one shy of the MLB record for a nine-inning game).