Outfielder Bryce Harper and Washington Nationals teammate Jonathan Papelbon got into a fight in the dugout during a game Sunday.
After a flyout in the eighth inning of Washington’s 12-5 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, Harper headed to the dugout, where he and Papelbon, the team’s closer, exchanged words. The argument escalated, and Papelbon reached out with his left hand and grabbed Harper by the throat.
Papelbon then shoved the outfielder toward the bench with both hands before teammates pulled the two apart.
“I mean, he apologized, so whatever,” Harper said with a shrug in the clubhouse. “I really don’t care.”
Said Papelbon: “I’m in the wrong there. … For me, I can’t allow that to happen in the middle of a game. You can handle that after the games or allow the manager to handle that. So in that light of it, I’m wrong.”
Manager Matt Williams, whose highly touted team was eliminated from playoff contention Saturday, delivered terse answers during a postgame news conference.
“Certainly there’s a lot of testosterone flowing among young men competing. What I can tell you is this: This is a family issue and we’ll deal with it that way,” Williams said. “There was an altercation in the dugout, and we’ll leave it at that.”
He said there hadn’t been any discussion about whether the team might suspend Papelbon, who was acquired from the Phillies in a trade in late July.
On Wednesday, Papelbon plunked Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado and was ejected from the game. Afterward, Harper called the hit-by-pitch “tired” and worried aloud about whether the Orioles would retaliate by throwing at him. Papelbon was suspended for three games by Major League Baseball for hitting Machado but appealed, allowing him to continue playing.
On Sunday, Harper was replaced in right field for the ninth inning. He was 0 for 4.
Harper leads the National League with a .336 batting average, 41 home runs, .658 slugging percentage and .467 on-base percentage.
Papelbon (4-3) pitched in the eighth inning Sunday and returned to the mound for the ninth in what was a 4-4 tie. He gave up five runs and left the mound to a chorus of boos from the Nationals Park crowd of 28,661.
“Sometimes, emotions spill over and that’s what happened today,” Papelbon said. “It’s happened for hundreds of years in this game and I think it will continue to happen.”
Phillies outfielder Jeff Francoeur, asked whether it had been a good victory, repied: “Better fight.”
Phillies make moves
Making moves geared to next season with a week left in this season, the Phillies have decided to decline their 2016 option for left-hander Cliff Lee and are shutting down rookie right-hander Aaron Nola.
Lee, 37, did not pitch this season because of an elbow injury but is a link to some of Philadelphia’s playoff teams of the recent past. Nola, 22, is considered a building block for the Phillies as they try to move on from this year’s worst-in-the-majors showing.
This was the final guaranteed season of Lee’s $120-million, five-year contract. The deal included a $27.5-million team option for 2016. Instead, the Phillies owe Lee a $12.5-million buyout.
Nola, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2014 amateur draft is 6-2 with a 3.59 earned-run average in 13 starts.