Washington Nationals superstar outfielder Bryce Harper found himself in the middle of a fight on the pitcher’s mound with San Francisco Giants’ pitcher Hunter Strickland during Monday’s game. Strickland hit Harper with a 98 MPH fastball in the 8th inning of Monday’s game which led to Harper flipping his bat and charging the mound before the two began exchanging punches. The two benches immediately cleared, and the teams attempted to stop Harper and Strickland from exchanging blows. Washington went on to win the game 3-0 and maintain their lead in the NL East, but both teams felt the bad blood following Monday’s Memorial Day game.
Bryce Harper and Hunter Strickland had not faced each other in over two years since Harper hit two home runs off Strickland in the 2014 National League Division Series. The Giants went on to win that series, 3-1, and the Nationals have failed to reach the postseason since. Most people including Bryce Harper believed that there was no bad blood between the two competitors prior to the at-bat, but Strickland still took his shot at Harper leading to the first major benches-clearing brawl of this MLB season. Several San Francisco Giants had to restrain Strickland from continuing to exchange blows with the Nationals star outfielder.
Both managers had something to say about the incident following the game, but Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy surprisingly agreed the pitch that hit Harper seemed intentional. ESPN wrote about the fight following Monday’s game and quoted manager Bruce Bochy on his thoughts regarding his player’s pitch on Harper.
“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. So you had two guys who probably don’t care for each other much.”
With his own manager saying the pitch looked bad, it is difficult to agree with Strickland’s explanation for the pitch. Strickland claimed Harper had beaten him on a couple of pitches over the middle of the plate in previous at bats against him, so going inside was his best bet to get him out. Instead, the fastball hit Harper right in the hip and led to Harper’s first ejection from a game over a fight. This led to speculation in the Washington locker room that Strickland is still thinking about their playoff matchup from three seasons ago.
The San Francisco Giants won their last World Series in the 2014 season when they beat the Washington Nationals in the first round, which led to some confusion as to why Strickland would still be upset over giving up a few home runs in the first round. Even Bryce Harper thought that Strickland being hung up on their first round series from 2014 was ridiculous. Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post wrote about the theory that Strickland hit Harper on purpose and quoted Harper’s thoughts after the game.
“I don’t even think he should be thinking about what happened in the first round. He should be thinking about wearing that ring home every single night.”
Despite the fact that Strickland has a ring and Harper does not, some players just have a hard time dealing with an opposing player who has their number out on the field. With Monday’s brawl being just the opener of a three-game series between the two teams, this matchup has become must-see television heading into Tuesday’s game. The major question heading forward with this is will Bryce Harper receive any disciplinary action from the league following his retaliation.
[Featured Image by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images]