Tempers flare, benches clear during Sunday’s Nationals-Pirates game

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A fake tag by third baseman Jung Ho Kang led to a beanball and emptied benches during Sunday afternoon’s game between the Nationals and Pirates at PNC Park.

In the top of the third inning, Bryce Harper led off with a triple to right field. He ran hard towards third base and Kang feigned receiving a throw which had, in reality, missed the cut-off man. That caused Harper, who had already committed to sliding head-first into the third base bag, to come into the bag awkwardly, injuring his left hand. Harper stayed in the game initially, scoring on an Anthony Rendon single, but he did not take his position for the bottom half of the inning. Chris Heisey took his spot in right field.

On the Nationals’ television broadcast, former major leaguer F.P. Santangelo said, “Kang faked a tag. You don’t fake a tag in the big leagues. You don’t fake a tag anywhere — you can hurt somebody.”

Nationals starter A.J. Cole got two quick outs to start the bottom of the third, bringing up Kang. Cole immediately threw a fastball up and in at Kang, which ended up sailing behind his back. Cole was immediately ejected by home plate umpire Jordan Baker. Some Pirates and Nationals players spilled out onto the field and the rest of the players and bullpens joined them not too long after.

Sean Rodriguez, known for his temper, needed to be held back by Gerrit Cole and David Freese. Rodriguez was ejected by Baker as well. When order was restored, Rafael Martin took over for Cole and struck out Kang to end the frame.

Cole and Rodriguez are likely looking at fines and suspensions. The Nationals should have more on Harper’s status after Sunday’s game is completed.