Just 11 games into Spring Training and there’s already evidence the rivalry between the Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies is alive and well.
That evidence came in the form of a fastball stamped into the ankle of Chase Utley, and then in another retaliatory fastball that whizzed behind Tyler Moore less than an inning later.
“They don’t really like each other,” Dan Kolko told 106.7 The Fan’s Lavar and Dukes Wednesday. “I think the Phillies for a long time, viewed the Nationals as the red-headed stepchild in the division, the team that they could push around, and the Nationals aren’t that team anymore.”
If you’re following along at home, Stephen Strasburg let one go in the third inning of a Spring Training game between the Nats in Phillies Wednesday, and in the top of the fourth, Roy Halladay made it clear he was watching when he shoved one right behind the back of Moore.
“Asked about if after his outing, Halladay said the pitch slipped and then smiled,” Kolko explained. “It was pretty clear from that that he was intending to protect his teammate and was trying to make a little bit of statement to the Nationals.”
It’s no secret to Nationals fans.
Philadelphia dominated the NL East through the Nationals first seven seasons in the division, as Washington watched the Phillies collect five consecutive division titles from 2007-11.
But their luck changed in 2012, when Philadelphia finished the year .500, missing the playoffs, and the Nats raised their first NL East banner on the way to a franchise-best 98-win season.
“They’ve fought back, they win the division last year, and now they’re kind of the top dogs,” Kolko said. “There’s a lot of talent on both of these teams, there’s a lot of pride on both of these teams and there’s been a couple of incidents over the last year or two years where these teams are kind of butting heads a little bit.”
Moore, who is entering just his second season in the big leagues, played to his youth after the game when asked if he thought Halladay intentionally threw at him.
“He didn’t come out and say anything. He publicly said to the media that he thinks the pitch slipped out of Halladay’s hand, but Halladay made it pretty clear that it didn’t; that this was a purpose pitch.”
Traditionally, baseball teams don’t experience this level of drama in Spring Training, but that doesn’t make it any less meaningful.
“It’s going to be interesting to see if anything from today carries over into the regular season,” Kolko said. “These teams don’t meet in the regular season until late May at Nationals Park, but baseball players have long memories.”
While it may have come far sooner than anyone would have predicted, there’s no doubt this rejuvenated Phillies team – which endured nearly the first three months of the 2012 season without Utley – has fired the first warning shot at the Nationals.
“This is definitely a budding rivalry between these two teams,” Kolko said. “I wouldn’t expect them to forget about this anytime soon.”
Listen to the full explanation of how the rivalry was re-ignited below…
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