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Nats at odds after Machado homer, plunking

Sep 24, 2015, 12:15 AM EDT

USA Today Sports Images

On yet another night when the Mets tried their best to make the NL East race interesting, the Nationals lost yet another critical game on a home run following a difficult pitching decision made by their manager. Then, once a 4-3 loss to the Orioles was in the books, they found themselves at odds with each other after their closer was ejected for plunking the guy who hit that critical home run earlier, leaving their own star player worried for his own well-being.

Talk about a game that might as well encapsulate a late-season collapse that has nearly reached its inevitable finish line.

Officially, it was Manny Machado’s 2-run homer off Max Scherzer’s 122nd pitch of the night (a 98-mph fastball) that decided this game and ruined the Nationals’ golden opportunity to pick up a game on a Mets club that lost its second straight to the foundering Braves. That should’ve been the one and only storyline to this contest, with Matt Williams once again done in by a no-win decision to either leave a tiring starter on the mound or instead summon an unreliable reliever.

“When I challenged him with my best, he beat me,” Scherzer said. “I’ve got to tip my hat to him. He put a great swing on it. Sometimes you get beat. Tonight’s one of those nights.”

Except that wasn’t the end of the story, because of what happened two innings later when Machado stepped to the plate again, this time against Jonathan Papelbon.

Brought in for a rare appearance with his team trailing in the ninth, Papelbon retired the first two batters he faced, then threw his first pitch high and tight to Machado, who took his time rounding the bases after homering off Scherzer. There was no contact with the batter, but eyebrows immediately were raised.

Papelbon’s next pitch was a slider on the outside corner, called a strike to even the count. But then he came right back up and in with a fastball, this one drilling Machado in the left shoulder. The Orioles’ All-Star third baseman threw his bat away in disgust. Plate umpire Mark Ripperger wasted little time before ejecting Papelbon, a move that drew players and coaches from both dugouts onto the field, though neither side ever truly encountered the other.

“He thought it was intentional,” crew chief Brian O’Nora said of Ripperger, in his first season as a full-time MLB umpire. “That’s why he ejected him. That’s how it is.”

Machado didn’t mince words when asked about the incident afterward.

“It’s something that’s uncalled for,” he said. “It’s [garbage]. It’s something that you don’t do. I expect more from a guy like that, with the past that he has. You’ve just got to go out there and keep playing baseball. It’s part of the game. If you can’t take the heat, just stay out of the kitchen and just go on from it. You don’t throw at somebody’s head. I think that’s [garbage]. I think we’ve just got to keep playing baseball.”

Papelbon intimated that the plunking wasn’t intentional, though he didn’t deny the accusation, either.

“They just said they deemed it intentional. They didn’t give me any reason,” he said. “I don’t know if they have to give me a reason or not. But perception is reality. If Manny thinks I hit him, then that’s what he thinks. I’m not going to sit here and go back and forth whether I did or whether I didn’t, cause it doesn’t matter. If he thinks I did, that’s what he thinks.”

Perception indeed is reality, which is why Bryce Harper found himself speculating whether he’d be the victim of retaliation during Thursday’s series finale.

“I mean, Manny freaking hit a homer and walked it off, and somebody drilled him,” Harper said. “It’s pretty tired. It’s one of those situations where it happens. I don’t know. I’ll probably get drilled tomorrow. We’ll see what happens.”

Even Papelbon acknowledged the potential for something more to happen Thursday, though he made it clear he doesn’t think retaliation would be warranted.

“Whether they want to get somebody tomorrow, that’s up to them,” he said. “I think that’s today’s game, there’s no more. If you think that I get you, then I’m out there, come get me … and it’s done. It don’t carry on till the next day. That’s baseball.”

Whether the emotions between these two clubs carry over to the series finale remains to be seen. This much is certain: At a time when they should be fighting with a vulnerable division leader trying like crazy to provide a last-ditch opening in the season’s final two weeks, the Nationals now find themselves fighting with an interleague rival.

And, even worse, perhaps with themselves.

  1. Eugene in Oregon - Sep 24, 2015 at 12:44 AM

    Bush league move. Given Manny Machado’s injury history, I don’t blame him and the O’s for being pissed.

  2. Section 222 - Sep 24, 2015 at 1:00 AM

    I think my view on intentionally hitting people is well known around here, particularly as retaliation for supposedly pimping a homerun. I hope Pap didn’t do it, but he sure isn’t pushing back very hard. If Harper gets thrown at tomorrow, I’ll be very upset. We all remember the last time he got “plunked” (against the Reds at the beginning of the summe) – he missed a game and wasn’t really right for awhile after that.

    That said, Machado is a punk, and he’s the last person who should be talking about the right way to the play the game after what he did to Derek Norris last year. He’s constant drama, even tonight when he stepped out of the box without the ump calling time and got called out on strikes.

    • bababooeytoyouall - Sep 24, 2015 at 10:22 AM

      the “right way” to play the game is to throw at the opponent’s star player when your star player gets hit. That’s what all the old school guys would have done. Since Matt Williams is old school, he better not complain about Bryce getting plunked today.

      • hokiepokster92 - Sep 24, 2015 at 12:39 PM

        The “right way” to play the game is to do it on the field. Remember Bryce stealing home on Cole Hamels after he got plunked?

    • Section 222 - Sep 24, 2015 at 12:43 PM

      Wait, let me consult my right way to play the game manual. It’s filed right next to my unwritten rules of baseball manual.

      • natsfan1a - Sep 24, 2015 at 2:10 PM

        You’ll probably need the indexes for those. Copies are available for a small fee. 🙂

      • Section 222 - Sep 24, 2015 at 2:12 PM

        Oh cool! Can I just give you my social security number, credit card CVV, and iPhone password here?

      • natsfan1a - Sep 24, 2015 at 2:19 PM

        Sure, that would work just fine. Just type them into the comment box. Thanks!

  3. breakbad1 - Sep 24, 2015 at 1:27 AM

    It was so sad to see the Orioles, all on the field, lined up in solidarity, after Machado got hit, while the Nationals slunked and cowered in the dugout.

    Ours is a soft, weak, empty team, as happy winning as losing.

    • Guapo - Sep 24, 2015 at 8:23 AM

      The Nats stayed in the dugout b/c they knew the plunking was unintentional. The Oriels did too, but they had to come out because Machado was whining at first and Buck had to come out (again) to save his crybaby star from being ejected. There was no reason at all for a plunking there, not in that situation, one run down in a winnable game with your closer on the hill. Machado and the umpire both over reacted. Simple situation made ridiculous by those two.

      • hokiepokster92 - Sep 24, 2015 at 12:41 PM


        The ump tossed Paps because he was influenced by Machado’s overreaction.

        So you got hit? Act like a man and take your base.

      • Section 222 - Sep 24, 2015 at 12:45 PM

        I agree that Machado overreacted, though Pap’s comments don’t really suggest that it was unintentional. As for “taking it like a man,” isn’t that what Joey Votto said to Bryce?

  4. Nats Fan Zee - Sep 24, 2015 at 8:08 AM

    I have been trying to at least accept Papelbon as a member of this team but there was no need for this. And this guy is signed for another year. It’s going to be a long winter …

  5. Guapo - Sep 24, 2015 at 8:17 AM

    Machado is a baby. Rub some dirt on it and go to first. His lack of understanding of the game showed there. It’s a 4-3 game. Nats still had a chance and are still in a race, especially with the Mets losing. There is no baseball reason for a plunking then. If you want to drill the guy, you do so in a different situation.

    Wild over reaction by the plate umpire. He should be disciplined by MLB offices for his actions.

  6. scnatsfan - Sep 24, 2015 at 8:30 AM

    Yeah, bad Papelbon; if he wants to be part of this team he needs to stop showing fire when his team is embarrassed and learn to be a good loser like the rest of the team.

    Machado showed Max up. Papelbon retaliated; I wish it was in the thigh. I can promise you one thing, Yogi Berra would have understood.

    • JayB - Sep 24, 2015 at 8:37 AM


  7. Joe Seamhead - Sep 24, 2015 at 8:50 AM

    I haven’t been writing much lately, as I have been dealing with a ton of personal issues, but I want to say that I have tried to be supportive of the Papelbon signing from the get go, but this guy is hard for me to like. I’m pretty old school when it comes to playing hard-nosed baseball, but that wasn’t hard-nosed, that was dumb-assed baseball. I think that Machado is a punk, but a very talented baseball player that is easy to dislike if he’s not on your team, but I am with Section 222, there is place for threatening a guys career and well being with throwing near bean balls at them. Papelbon is really hard for me to root for.

    • nats106 - Sep 24, 2015 at 10:35 AM

      And I’ve missed you JoeS. I hope your personal issues are resolvable quickly and are not serious.

      Jury still out on Papelbon signing. I’m between you and breakbad/bigcat on this one. Every game seems to tilt me one direction to the other.

      • natsfan1a - Sep 24, 2015 at 2:10 PM


        “And I’ve missed you JoeS. I hope your personal issues are resolvable quickly and are not serious.”

  8. JayB - Sep 24, 2015 at 9:38 AM

    +1 One of Rizzo’s guys….when does this fail fall at his feet?

  9. bigcat492 - Sep 24, 2015 at 10:03 AM

    Screw Machado and the O’s. They’ve been kickin our butts for too long now. God bless Papelbon. If Harper had posed and pimped after a homer like whiner Machado did, there would of been a national uproar. Personally, If I was Roark tonight I’d drill Machado in the ribs again. Screw him. Screw Buck to

    • hokiepokster92 - Sep 24, 2015 at 12:38 PM

      Kicking butts? The Nats took 2 of 3 in BMore before the all-star break. Going into last night’s game the season series was tied at 2 games apiece.

  10. bigcat492 - Sep 24, 2015 at 10:08 AM

    Breakbad… are right. This is a weak, soft team mentally. You know why we are losing now, and will lose again tonight? Its cause the Mets are losing and trying to give the lead back to us, which adds pressure to us. And you know what happens to the Nats when the pressure mounts? Yep…you got it….we fold up the tent.

  11. rabbit433 - Sep 24, 2015 at 11:42 AM

    Machado said the “plunking” was garbage. Well, garbage just about summarizes the Nats season.

  12. hokiepokster92 - Sep 24, 2015 at 12:36 PM

    If Manny doesn’t react the way he did (throwing the bat down) with such emotion, does Ripperger toss Paps? I think Ripperger was influenced by Manny’s reaction. Bad call. Issue a warning.

  13. Section 222 - Sep 24, 2015 at 1:29 PM

    You can’t tell Machado to “take it like a man” unless you were with Joey Votto when Bryce was nailed at the end of May.

    I like Pap, and I’m glad Rizzo signed him. But I strongly dislike intentional HBPs. Backing a guy off the plate, sure. But “teach him a lesson.” It’s B.S. on many levels, and dangerous. If there’s retaliation tonight, I sure hope Bryce doesn’t get hurt. We want him to finish out this historic season on the field.

  14. Sonny G 10 - Sep 24, 2015 at 2:43 PM

    Good arguments both ways. I’m not sure which way I lean. The only thing is, if intentional, do not throw at a player’s head, no matter how much of an as*hole they may be. I don’t like for them to do it in the ribs, arms, or hands either. Fat part of the butt would be my preference. Less chance of an injury that way.

    • nats106 - Sep 24, 2015 at 2:52 PM

      Wait, you’re confusing me-throw at his ass-since Manny has his head up there, wouldn’t there be a risk of hitting him in the head?





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