WASHINGTON -- The Nationals pounded the Cubs, 9-2, at Nationals Park on Thursday night, but two bench-clearing incidents, one of which involved Bryce Harper, overshadowed the game.
With Washington leading, 7-2, the game started getting ugly. The benches and bullpens emptied twice with no punches thrown. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth was at the plate when he swung at a 3-0 pitch from reliever Lendy Castillo.
Bench coach Jaime Quirk was clearly upset that Werth swung at the pitch when the Nationals were up by five runs.
Nationals third-base coach Bo Porter walked near the Cubs' dugout and was yelling back at Quirk. Porter didn't give specifics on what was said between the two parties, but indicated he wouldn't back down from a boxing match. The benches and bullpens emptied.
"When it comes to our players, I'm pretty passionate about it," Porter said. "Every time you start the game, there are two teams out there. When I was younger, I did Gold Glove boxing and my trainer would always tell me before the bell rings, 'Just in case you didn't know, when this bell rings, he is going to hit back.'"
Both teams went back to their neutral corners with Quirk ejected from the game. Had Porter gone into the Cubs' dugout, he, too, would have been tossed.
"Quirk was ejected for screaming out obscenities to the third-base coach," home-plate umpire Jerry Layne said. "That was the ejection for the coach. The fracas was started because all that stuff that happened that was instigated by Quirk screaming out at Porter. And the obscenities that he screamed out, I just felt was inappropriate and that's what caused everything. The reason he was ejected was he was the cause."
Nationals manager Davey Johnson felt Quirk was frustrated by the way Washington manhandled Chicago during the four-game series. The Nationals outscored the Cubs 31-9. But Johnson had no intentions of trying to stop his team from scoring. He pointed out that his team had a 9-0 lead against the Braves in July and lost the game, 11-10.
"If they want to quit competing and forfeit, then fine, but we are going to keep competing," Johnson said. "I don't know why they are getting on [Werth] swinging 3-0. [Anthony Rizzo hit a home run on a 3-0 pitch] in the first inning. What is the difference with the bases loaded in the fifth when we have a five-run lead and with two outs?"
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Harper led off and, on the first pitch, was nearly hit by Castillo. Harper was visibly upset and was thinking about charging the mound, but he was stopped by Cubs catcher Steve Clevenger, Lane and Werth. The benches and bullpens both emptied for the second time.
"You come in our house and mess with our kid brother, that's how we look at it. You are not going to come in and do what you please like that," Nationals reliever Mike Gonzalez said.
Harper was not surprised that he was targeted after what happened in the previous inning.
"It's just baseball, I guess," Harper said. "I wasn't going to do anything stupid. I was trying to stay calm in that situation. I wasn't going to do anything stupid."
However, Clevenger and Manuel Corpas were ejected, as was Gonzalez. Clevenger was seen pushing Michael Morse.
"We just reviewed the film," Layne said. "Even the people in the booth that were watching the game on the television picked up every one of the people that we threw out by name on the TV monitor of what they're watching."
"Well you know, the ball got away from Lendy, you know, the benches cleared," Clevenger said. "We weren't trying to throw at him intentionally. That's just the way the game's played. I was in the middle, you know, where everybody was trying to break everybody up. That's basically what I was trying to do, just break everything up."
Johnson saw things differently.
"That's again frustration from a team that is having a rough year," Johnson said. "I was proud of my guys for not really overreacting. We are in a pennant race. We have to be mild citizens. We don't start things, but we are not going to back down from anything."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.