WASHINGTON — Monday was the first time Bryce Harper had faced Hunter Strickland since they met in the 2014 NLDS, during which Harper took Strickland deep twice — in Games 1 and 4 — in two plate appearances.
Their latest encounter came with the Nationals leading the Giants 2-0 in the eighth inning, and there would be only one pitch thrown — a 98-MPH fastball Strickland flung directly into the batter’s box, striking Harper square in the hip.
Harper squared up to shout at Strickland, then launched his helmet as he charged the mound seeking a fistful of revenge.
“So Bryce Harper did charge the mound yesterday,” John-Paul Flaim of The Sports Junkies said Tuesday morning. “I just think baseball brawls, and the old baseball rules, are just stupid. I mean this guy, Hunter Strickland, is holding a grudge for three years!”
“I mean, let’s be honest. Yes, there have been brawls forever and they’re never gonna stop,” Jason Bishop said. “But when it’s a guy who is pissed off about a couple of bombs from three years ago? He’s got some issues. …It’s a bigger story when it’s a star in the game, and Bryce obviously is a star.”
“But it’s more than the bombs,” Erick Bickel said. “It was just that Bryce got a little overexcited for his liking, right? I mean, it’s not just the bombs.”
“But that’s what I think is stupid,” Flaim said. “Shouldn’t you be excited when you hit a home run in the playoffs? In the playoffs!”
“I agree. But I’m just saying, if you were to be technical about it, I don’t think he was necessarily upset that he hit two bombs off him,” Bickel said. “I think he was upset about just how excited he got.”
“Well the first one that he hit in Game 1, I didn’t think there was a problem with it at all,” Bishop recalled. “He hit the ball — he crushed it — he ran around the bases and ran to the dugout. Now, maybe the second one in Game 4…”
“A lot of hooting and hollering in there,” Bickel said.
“Yeah, but remember: after the first one, Strickland was staring at Bryce,” Bishop said. “That was all on Strickland.”
“Why you staring? Why you being a jerk? You gave up a big meatball down the middle,” John Auville said. “It’s not Bryce’s fault he hit it 500 feet!”
“But what’s wrong with staring?” Flaim asked. “It’s staring! That’s what’s stupid about this!”
Bishop went on to defend Harper for “standing his ground” after being plunked, but remained critical of Strickland: ” I have a problem with Strickland holding a grudge for three years, almost three years. I don’t understand that. And what’s amazing is that’s the first time he’s faced him since that Game 4. That is crazy. It’s random, but it’s crazy.”
Bickel proposed that Harper, rather than chucking his helmet in retaliatory anger as he charged the mound, should have “brought the bat” to the fight, a sentiment with which many Junkies’ listeners agreed and voiced their approval for in later segments.
“If they’re throwing 98-MPH heaters at you, just bring the bat,” Bickel said. “Just bring the bat and beat the crap out of him. That’s a big dude.”
With both players appropriately ejected for their behavior, they can equally expect suspensions are forthcoming. The only question is: for how long?