Let’s not make a federal case out of Bryce Harper’s F-Bomb, OK?

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I woke up this morning at one of those points of existential crisis in which parents find themselves from time to time. A hero ballplayer defied the authority of an umpire, came on to the field after he had been ejected and then yelled an obscenity at him. How on Earth do I explain that to my children? How?!

Oh, wait. I don’t have to. Kids don’t watch baseball anymore. Hahaha.

Eh, look. I’m not gonna say it was a great performance for Bryce Harper last night. Even if you’re squarely on board the Make Baseball Fun Again bandwagon, it’s sort of hard to go all-in with a defense of yelling “F-you” at an ump, and I suspect that Major League Baseball isn’t going to look too kindly on it. Between returning to the field after being ejected — which you’re not supposed to do even in celebration — and the F-bomb, I wouldn’t be shocked if Harper were fined or maybe even suspended for a game. Managers have been penalized for both things in the past, and if Harper is, well, so be it. It’d be in keeping with MLB precedent.

At the same time, I do hope we can agree not to make a federal case out of this. Or, worse, the F-bomb that launched a thousand thinkpieces about Harper’s character and meaning. Bobby Cox yelled F-bombs at umpires from the dugout — audibly — scores of times. Earl Weaver did way worse. No one thought to lecture them on how to be “classy” or said that they were punks or whatever. They’re baseball guys and baseball guys, young and old, get salty sometimes. Harper is no different, even if he’s in the running to be “The Face of Baseball” among people who think such things are important.

Harper, like every single baseball player who has ever played a game at one point or another, was pissed at an ump for subjective reasons. His team won a game in dramatic fashion a few minutes later, he ran on the field to celebrate and — I suspect — was told to get off the field. He said “F-You,” just like most of us have said “F-You” to someone we were mad at at one time or another. No one lectures us when we lose our composure in such a fashion. They roll their eyes at most and move on pretty quickly because doing anything else is a waste of effort.

I’m at a place in life where I don’t yell “F-you” at people as often as I did 20 years ago. Bryce Harper isn’t yet. He’s allowed to have moments like that just like anyone else. You don’t have to approve of it. You also don’t have to disapprove of it, let alone make a big show of doing so. Stuff happens.

Swanson, Olson go deep vs Scherzer, Braves take NL East lead

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ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered off Max Scherzer, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a crucial 4-2 victory Saturday night over the New York Mets and a one-game lead in the NL East.

The defending World Series champions beat aces Jacob deGrom and Scherzer on consecutive nights to take their biggest lead of the season in the division. New York, which held a 10 1/2-game cushion on June 1, faces its biggest deficit of the year with four games remaining.

Atlanta will try for a three-game sweep Sunday night, with the winner earning the season-series tiebreaker between the teams. Even though both teams are headed to the postseason, that’s important because the NL East champion gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Swanson’s 24th homer, a go-ahead, two-run shot in the fifth inning, touched off a frenzy among the sold-out crowd at Truist Park, the ball sailing a few rows up into the seats in left-center to make it 3-2. Olson hit his 32nd homer in the sixth, a solo shot into Chop House seats in right to put Atlanta up 4-2.

Austin Riley led off the fourth with a double and scored on Olson’s single to make it 1-all.

Kyle Wright (21-5) gave up two runs and seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts in five innings as he won his eighth straight decision. The Braves have won 16 of his last 17 starts.

New York went up 2-1 in the fifth when Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil hit consecutive two-out singles.

The Mets led 1-0 in the first when Brandon Nimmo singled, advanced on a walk and a single and scored on Eduardo Escobar‘s groundout. Wright, who threw 30 pitches in the first, stranded two runners in scoring position to prevent further damage.

Scherzer (11-5) allowed a first-inning single to Riley and a third-inning infield single to Ronald Acuna Jr., who advanced to third on a fielding error by Lindor at shortstop but was stranded when Michael Harris II lined out to center. Scherzer patted his glove and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.

Scherzer was charged with nine hits and four runs with no walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings as the Mets were knocked out of first place for only the third day all season.

The Braves have won five of the last six against New York to tie the season series 9-all, outscoring the Mets 37-16 over that stretch.

Atlanta’s bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA in September, got a perfect inning from Dylan Lee in the sixth. Jesse Chavez faced four batters in the seventh, Raisel Iglesias faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 39th save in 46 chances.

Since the Braves were a season low-tying four games under .500 at 23-27 after play on May 31, they have gone 76-32, tying the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors over that span. They were a season-worst 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets on June 1.

Wright, the only 20-game winner in baseball this season, hasn’t officially become the first Braves pitcher to lead the league in wins outright since Russ Ortiz had 21 in 2003, but the Dodgers’ Julio Urias has 17 and can’t reach 20 before the regular season ends.

Wright will become the first Braves pitcher since Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in 2000 to lead the majors in wins. Houston ace Justin Verlander also has 17.

Wright began the game 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in six career starts and one relief appearance against the Mets.

The Braves, who got homers from Riley, Olson and Swanson off deGrom on Friday, lead the NL with 240 homers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. Manager Buck Showalter said Marte is experiencing less pain but not enough to take the next step in his recovery. Marte has been sidelined since Sept. 7.

Braves: RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique. Manager Brian Snitker said there is no timetable for the rookie’s return. Strider has been sidelined since Sept. 21.

NICE GLOVE

Harris ran back and jumped to catch Nimmo’s fly against the wall in center field for the first out of the third.

UP NEXT

Mets RHP Chris Bassitt (15-8, 3.27 ERA) will face RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.29) as the teams conclude a three-game series.