Intentional or not, Bryce Harper’s body continues to be a magnet for Braves’ pitchers. After benches cleared when the 20-year-old was hit by a pitch back on August 6, he was hit two more times last night.
Harper was hit in the back by a curveball from starter Alex Wood in the top of the fourth inning, though it certainly appeared to be a pitch that got away from the young southpaw. Luis Avilan later plunked Harper in the eighth inning with a pitch that came dangerously close to hitting him in the head.
It’s worth noting that it was a one-run game at the time and the tying run was already at second base, so it would be a silly time to throw at someone intentionally. While Avilan put his team in position to potentially lose the game, that didn’t stop some fans from giving him a standing ovation when Fredi Gonzalez made a pitching change. Oh, so classy. The Nationals would go on to tie it on a single by Jayson Werth, but the Braves won in the bottom of the 10th inning on a walk-off homer by Justin Upton.
For his part, Avilan told Amanda Comak of the Washington Times that he did not throw at Harper intentionally and simply had a “bad day” on the mound. Meanwhile, Harper declined comment after the game. There have been calls for retaliation from the Nationals, but you can bet the umpiring crew will be on high alert for any funny business this weekend. Besides, it’s not like throwing at someone will change the fact that the disappointing Nationals sit 15 1/2 games behind the Braves in the National League East.
I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.
Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.
This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.
Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.