Nats win behind Roark gem; Overshadowed by Bryce Harper/Hunter Strickland brawl

The Washington Nationals shutout the Giants 3-0 thanks to the superb pitching of Tanner Roark who went 7.0 strong innings on Memorial Day. In the top of the 8th inning, Hunter Strickland came in to face Bryce Harper who was a career 2-2 against Strickland with 2 long home runs in the 2014 post-season. On the first pitch thrown by Strickland, he nailed Harper with a 98.4 mph heater that was inside by over 3 feet and Harper went after him.

Some vintage video of Bryce Harper homering off of Hunter Strickland—again. That was the last time Strickland faced Harper three years ago prior to today. A total of 965 days between facing each other in a game again. If you want to round up the numbers to the nearest 100 then call it an even 1,000.

The game of course will be overshadowed by this brawl, and this will be the talk of every sports show tonight, tomorrow, and for a while going forward.

Matt Williams was the Nationals’ manager in 2014 and happens to be an analyst with the Giants now so he had the opportunity to weigh-in on this fight:

Not to be lost in all of this, Ryan Zimmerman hit his first home run since May 6th and Daniel Murphy had 2 RBI hits to drive in the second and third runs of the game. The bullpen threw 2 scoreless innings but the bottom of the 8th included a bases loaded situation with 2 outs that Shawn Kelley got out of after Oliver Perez began the inning. Koda Glover threw a quick 1-2-3 9th inning for his 6th save.

Roark was also aided by his defense which included a Jayson Werth play at the leftfield wall saving a sure double, and Matt Wieters threw out 2 baserunners.

What people want to talk about is the fight and the hit-by-pitch and of course the fight. Dusty Baker was not going duck the question as to whether the hit-by-pitch was intentional.

“It looks like it was intentional to me,” Dusty Baker said about Hunter Strickland hitting Bryce Harper with a pitch. “What is a man supposed to do. He is not a punching bag and you know human with the emotions. I know he took him deep in the playoffs a couple of times and he probably took exception to that. Baseball is a game you don’t forget. You can hold grudges for a long long time…I have a couple I’ve been carrying for years…That clearly was thrown inside at a spot where you can’t really get out of the way and move. If anyone gets suspended it should be their pitcher, not [Bryce]. ”

On Saturday morning, Bryce Harper was telling Little Leaguers that there are “no participation trophies”, and today Harper won his merit badge in self-respect by showing the world that he won’t take cheap shots any more. This was Harper’s first physical altercation with an opposing player in his career, and he has been hit before with no provocation by Cole Hamels, Julio Teheran, and Tony Cingrani as well as others. Harper, before today, has been hit by 16 pitches in his career and most have been on-purpose, and Harper had never retaliated before today. Bryce had always let his play on the field do his talking.

“That was the first time I was certain someone was going to throw at me,” Harper said. “I don’t want to go into a baseball game trying to fight somebody, especially when it’s in the past, so in the past it’s not even relevant anymore. They won the World Series that year, and I don’t even think he should be thinking about what happened in the first round. He should be thinking about wearing the ring home every single night. I don’t why he did it or what he did it for.’’

Here is some video:

“When somebody comes at you like that and throws a 98 mph fastball where he did, I wasn’t very happy with it and took it into my [own] hands,” Harper continued. “A baseball’s a weapon, and to be able to use that to his advantage, what do you want to do in that situation? You never want to get suspended or anything like that, but sometimes you just have to go get ‘em. You can’t hesitate. You either go to first base or go after him, and I decided to go after him.”

It will be unfortunate for the Washington Nationals as a team that they will be without Harper for a few days when he serves his suspension that isn’t an “if he will” rather it is a guarantee that he will be suspended. This was an egregious case of retaliation with a baseball used to inflict pain or as Harper said a “weapon”.

From the Giants side, they tried to paint the picture that it was not intentional but they know it was. There are some pitches that you wonder about, but this was a purpose pitch by Strickland, and he threw it near his maximum velocity. Harper was just fortunate that it connected below the belt and above the knees. Did we mention that was Strickland’s first hit-by-pitch of the season?

“Harper gets hit. You’re looking at a guy [Strickland] who has given up some home runs, and he’ll tell you he was trying to come in, didn’t want to make a mistake there. But it looks bad,” Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy said. “So you had two guys who probably don’t care for each other much.”

Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

“I can see how [our history] kind of stands in people’s minds, but that’s the past,” Hunter Strickland said. “Like I said, I left the ball over the plate a couple times to him. He’s taken advantage of that. So obviously I’d rather miss in than over the plate.”

What did the best pitcher on Monday think?

“Three years later, time to turn the page,” Tanner Roark said. “Guess that’s the only way he could get him out, by hitting him. Well, couldn’t get him out, so the only way he could do it. I think it’s way too late for that. Maybe the next year, but shouldn’t have thrown those pitches that get hit out. That’s the bottom line.”

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