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.
The Phillies’ bullpen led to yet another loss on Tuesday. Severino Gonzalez, Luis Garcia, Joely Rodriguez, and David Hernandez combined to allow six runs in five innings, allowing the Braves to come back and win 7-6 after falling behind 6-0 after the first two innings.
The game prior, the Phillies’ bullpen surrendered 14 runs in four innings in a 17-0 loss to the Mets. The game before that, the bullpen yielded four runs in four innings, nearly squandering the Phillies’ 10-0 lead after four innings. And last Thursday, the Phillies had taken an 8-6 lead in the top of the 11th, but Edubray Ramos served up a walk-off three-run home run to Asdrubal Cabrera. It’s been a tough month.
Manager Pete Mackanin ripped the bullpen when speaking to the media after Tuesday’s game. Via Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly:
Neris was going to close for us. I thought about using him with two outs in the eighth. But, at some point, somebody else has to do a (bleeping) job. Somebody else has to (bleeping) step up. In two games now, every reliever I brought in has given up a (bleeping) run. That’s unheard of.
The Phillies currently own the fourth-worst bullpen ERA in baseball at 4.97. Only the Rockies (5.12), Reds (5.07), and Diamondbacks (4.98) have been worse.
In fairness to the bullpen, aside from Jeanmar Gomez (who lost his job as closer earlier this month) and free agent signee David Hernandez, the bullpen is intentionally comprised of young, inexperienced pitchers as the Phillies are still rebuilding. If the Phillies were aiming for a playoff spot, it would be one thing, but the struggles are to be expected when one throws 24-year-olds into the deep end.
Manager Robin Ventura’s contract with the White Sox expires after the season, but the club will offer him a new contract if he wants to stay in Chicago, Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports reports.
Ventura’s five seasons at the helm of the White Sox haven’t gone well. The club has crossed the 80-win threshold only once, in his first season back in 2012. Entering the final five games of the season, Ventura has a 373-432 record (463) overall.
The White Sox have also had a handful of controversies under Ventura’s watch, including the fiasco concerning Adam LaRoche and his son Drake, as well as Chris Sale‘s displeasure with wearing retro uniforms. Ventura is not exactly a fan favorite, either. It’s interesting that the White Sox want to keep him around, to say the least.