The biggest race of the year was not supposed to be the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals. It was supposed to be the Washington Nationals and the Atlanta Braves.
The standings as of August 8th show the Braves with a very comfortable 14.5 game lead over the Nationals in the National League East. Not much of a “race” going on in that division. Judging by the tempers of the two teams, you really can’t tell.
The Braves are on a hot streak. They have won 12 straight games and are showing no signs of slowing down. The Nationals are five games below .500 and trying to get on track. The teams came together for a three-game series that began on August 5th in Washington.
The story here begins on Monday night as the teams were tied going into the top of the 8th inning and Nationals’ starter Stephen Strasburg would leave the game to his bullpen. Justin Upton led off that inning with an eight-pitch at bat against reliever Tyler Clippard. Upton would win the at bat, and ultimately the game, with a monster home run down the left-field line. According to TaterTrotTracker on Twitter, Upton then took 27.36 seconds to round the bases.
The following night, on Tuesday the Nationals would take an early lead off a Bryce Harper home run that may not have landed yet. Estimated at over 430 feet, Harper proceeded to round the bases. Again, according to TaterTrotTracker on Twitter, Harper would complete his circuit at the slowest rate of his young career, in 23.66 seconds.
The Braves were more irritated than the Nationals over the time it took a slugger to round the bases. The Nationals were upset at Upton, but decided to simply continue to play the game the next day. The Braves? Well, they responded by plunking Harper in his next at bat. Harper took exception, yelled at Braves pitcher Julio Teheran, benches cleared and everyone stood around yelling. No punches were thrown. No physical punches at least.
The knockout blow came from Twitter. The Braves official account called out Harper for his “antics” (again, despite Harper rounding the bases faster than Upton) by tweeting “Clown move bro”. The Nationals account would respond, asking if the Braves were referring to “giving up the home run” or “drilling the 20-year old” in his next at bat. The Nationals have since deleted their tweet, though the Braves clever parting shot remains online currently.
Funny that Harper can hit a monster home run in his home park in the third inning and the Braves will take offense to it enough to publicly call the young man out, yet Upton can smash a game-winning shot on the road, circle the bases even slower, and no retaliation occurs.
Who’s the clown here?