- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 27, 2015

A disappointing season took a physical turn Sunday afternoon when Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper and closer Jonathan Papelbon argued, then began to fight in the dugout in the bottom of the eighth inning of a 12-5 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday.

Harper flew out to left field, then turned back toward the dugout. Papelbon was leaning over the railing and appeared to say something to Harper about not running out the fly ball. The two continued to argue, then Papelbon hopped down from an elevated portion of the dugout to go after Harper.

The two were in a brief altercation that was broken up by teammates. Neither player was hurt.

“First of all, let me say I’m in the wrong there,” Papelbon said. “I’ve got to leave that up to our manager. You know, there’s a lot of competition and it’s a long season, it’s a grind. You know, I think we’re going to handle that in-house and stuff like that. I’ve talked to Bryce and told him how we feel. We’re on the same page now, which is good, and squash this and head to tomorrow’s game.

“I grew up with brothers. I view him as a brother of mine. Sometimes in this game, there’s a lot of testosterone, there’s a lot of intensity that spills over. Think that happened today. For me, I can’t allow that to happen in the middle of the game.”

Harper stuck to a script when talking to reporters about the dust-up.

“I’m just worried about the last six games of the year,” Harper said several times.

Harper acknowledged that Papelbon apologized to him.

“He apologized,” Harper said. “Whatever. I really don’t care. I mean, these next six games, keep doing what I’m doing. It’s like brothers fighting. That’s what happens, and hopefully move forward.”

Asked if he had fought a teammate before, Harper said, “Used to fighting the other team.”

Harper was not sent back onto the field in the top of the ninth inning. Papelbon remained on the mound. He gave up a two-run, tie-breaking home run, walked a batter and hit another before finally being removed from the game.

Nationals manager Matt Williams said Papelbon was sent back to the mound because, “He’s our closer.”

Papelbon beaned Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado on Wednesday. He was ejected for doing so, and a fight between the Nationals and Orioles almost took place afterward. Harper called Papelbon hitting Machado “tired” after the game, clearly displeased with the closer’s actions.

Papelbon was suspended for three games following what baseball deemed and intentional beaning of Machado. He was able to pitch on Sunday because he is appealing the suspension.

Papelbon contended that what Harper said after the game against the Orioles was a non-issue.

Williams was terse in his postgame answers, insisting the incident was a “family issue” and it will be dealt with that way. He did not say if Papelbon will be suspended by the team.

Papelbon has long been known as a volatile personality and effective closer. The Nationals acquired him in a trade with the Phillies on July 28.

“It’s just in the heat of the moment,” Papelbon said. “We’re out there trying to fight for a playoff spot, and it didn’t happen. Emotions build over sometimes and that’s what happens. We’re all brothers here.”

Papelbon said he thinks the incident will bring him and Harper closer in the future, calling his conversation with Harper “good.” Both are under contract for next season.

“I think Bryce understands where I’m coming from, and it’s squashed and it’s good and we’re going to move on,” Papelbon said.

The Nationals have one home game remaining in what has become a disappointing season. The preseason World Series favorites were eliminated from playoff consideration on Saturday night, and on Sunday, an eight-run ninth inning for the Phillies dropped the Nationals’ record to 79-76.

As the scheduled regular-season finale, players participated in the “Jerseys Off Their Backs” promotion, but there is a makeup game Monday against the Cincinnati Reds. Players met individually with fans on the field after the game to hand them jerseys.

Then, in a final surreal turn, hundreds of people were invited to practice yoga in the outfield, where they were encouraged to breathe, relax and pursue a peaceful state.

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