MIAMI — Bryce Harper was ejected from the Washington Nationals’ 2-1 extra-innings loss to the Miami Marlins on Saturday night after arguing a called third strike with home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt in the eighth inning.
In a gut-wrenching, frustrating loss in which multiple culprits were at fault, Harper’s ejection loomed large in the 10th inning when his spot came up in the order and he was no longer in the game to take his at-bat. With two runners on, Scott Hairston struck out, and Ryan Zimmerman followed suit one batter later to end the threat.
“I usually try and say the right things, I guess, but we’ve got to have our three-hole hitter in the game right there,” said shortstop Ian Desmond, who was on first base during the sequence after a base hit. “Simple as that.”
“The person who hits three-hole is usually your best hitter and one of your better players. Usually the best. There’s no doubt that his skill set is there but he cannot, in a one-run ballgame, (get ejected). We need that game. That’s a game you have to stay in no matter what.
“Sometimes you’ve got to bite your tongue. We all get bad calls called against us. I didn’t look at the replays or anything like that, but you’ve got to stay in the game. You have to. For your team.”
Harper, who was called out on strikes on two outside pitches in his previous at-bat in the sixth inning and seemed displeased then as well, threw his arms up after the third strike was called in his at-bat against Dan Jennings in the eighth. Wendelstedt ejected him almost immediately after the gesture.
Harper then took a few more seconds to offer Wendelstedt a piece of his mind before manager Davey Johnson came out and ushered him back to the dugout.
“You can’t do that,” Johnson said. “Take it out on the pitcher. Don’t take your frustration out on the umpire.”
It was the third ejection of Harper’s young career, and the second to occur here in Miami.
“The first two ABs I didn’t think he was calling anything on the outside half,” Harper said, explaining himself. “I got 2-0, (Marlins starter Jose) Fernandez wasn’t really coming at me. (Wendelstedt) called a pitch that was right down the middle 2-0, so it was 2-1 and then the next two weren’t even close. I really don’t think they were close at all and I got pretty upset about that one. I let it go a little bit.
“The next AB (against Jennings), he was throwing a waste pitch up. I knew he was throwing a waste pitch up and I knew he was going to come back with the slider if he wasn’t going to call a strike on that. He called a strike and I wasn’t going to take it. There’s no shot. I looked back at him, gave him a piece of mind. Got out what I wanted to get out, and he threw me out.”
Harper was upset at what he felt was an inability to work with Wendelstedt’s zone and how differently the game might’ve gone if he’d gotten what he believed to be the proper calls, particularly in the sixth inning.
“He took the bat out of my hands the first time and the second time,” Harper said. “I could’ve got on first and walked against Fernandez. That’s a guy you’ve got to battle against. He throws 95. I ain’t going to hit 95 (mph) two or three inches off the black. That’s just not going to happen. I just did what I had to do and it got tossed.”
The Nationals were up 1-0 at the time of his ejection, and their one run came when Harper smashed into Marlins’ catcher Jeff Mathis at home plate in the fourth inning to score on Jayson Werth’s sacrifice fly.
His absence was notable in the 10th though, after Rafael Soriano blew his fourth save of the season and the Nationals were locked in a 1-1 tie, and his spot came up in the order. Asked about the at-bat, however, Harper expressed confidence that Hairston had a good chance to get the job done there against Marlins closer Steve Cishek, too.
“(If Harper is coming up in that situation), you’re going to walk Harp to get to Zim with one out and all he’s got to do is hit a sac fly,” Desmond said. “I always say this game is chess, not checkers. That’s the stuff that you’ll learn throughout the course of your career. I think he may or may not realize the ramifications of him getting ejected tonight, but hopefully he learns from it and we can move forward from it.”
Harper was ejected last season at Marlins Park in August by CB Bucknor, who was serving as the first base umpire, when he slammed his helmet to the ground after making an out at first base. Bucknor quickly tossed Harper, though the gesture appeared in frustration at himself and not the call.
Harper was also ejected in May at PNC Park in Pittsburgh when third base umpire John Hirschbeck threw him out for arguing a check swing call in the first inning.