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A wild pitch, Brandon Phillips and two ejections

As he was getting dressed into street clothes after Saturday night's 5-1 loss to Cincinnati, Washington relief pitcher Miguel Batista glanced up at the group of reporters converging on his locker stall and deadpanned: "What happened?"

Batista knew full well the line of questioning that was to come. He knew he would be asked about hitting Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips in the ribs with a 93-mile per hour fastball in the top of the ninth inning, about his ensuing ejection from the game and whether the pitch was an premeditated response to Phillips' showmanship during the previous inning.

So Batista let slip a grin, and then began to deliver his take on a sequence of plays that had little - if any - effect on the outcome of the game, but was the center of attention regardless.

Did Batista hit Phillips intentionally?

"No, just playing baseball," Batista said with a straight face. "Everybody knows Phillips, you got to go way in and way out. To be honest, I throw mostly fastballs, like I did to Cabrera. The only difference is with (Phillips) you have to go way in, and that one got away. I mean, he knows he did wrong. He got booed by the fans, so we're here to win. We're not here to be fine with everybody who do wrong against us. Everybody thinks we're walking on egg shells here because of all the things that have been going on around the league and players are very sensitive, but no. We're just here to play baseball."

The whole ordeal began in the top of the eighth with a 91-mile per hour fastball to Joey Votto dealt by reliever Sean Burnett. The wild pitch skirted behind home plate, sending Phillips - who had singled in the previous at-bat - racing toward second base.

Shortstop Ian Desmond said he figured at the time that with as hard as Phillips was running and with as wide a turn as he took around second, Phillips likely was headed for third. So, standing in the basepath, Desmond turned and began to run in the direction of third base, as well. He said he was planning to back up the play at third.

Phillips "was pretty much coming after me," Desmond said. "He was obviously trying to come after me for the obstruction. I just ran to third. And I thought I did all I could to get out of the way, but, you know, I guess it wasn't enough."

When asked to clarify if he meant to say Phillips was intentionally trying to come into contact with Desmond, the shortstop replied in the affirmative.

"If you're a good baserunner that's the kind of stuff you look for," Desmond said. "You look for opportunities like that to advance to the next base. I don't think he did anything wrong. It was just I couldn't really go anywhere else. If I slowed down, he would have ran into me. If I went left he would have ran into me. He did it right. It was the right call. What are you going to do?"

Phillips and Desmond made brief contact between second and third base, at which point third base umpire Dan Bellino immediately signaled fielder interference. The throw from catcher Wil Nieves to third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was in time, but Phillips was ruled safe due to the called obstruction.

In the dugout, Manager Jim Riggleman caught only a glimpse of the contact between Phillips and Desmond. He said he was more focused on the wild pitch and Nieves's efforts to retrieve it.

Nonetheless, he marched onto the field to object to the interference ruling. Riggleman said the explanation he was provided - that there was contact - was unsatisfactory. Riggleman was ejected from the game.

"I'm arguing somewhat blindly," Riggleman said. "I didn't really know what took place, but I know the explanation that I got didn't satisfy me, so I argued that. It just didn't make a lot of sense to me. I just basically am arguing on behalf of the ball club, and if you do enough of that you're going to get thrown out."

Votto walked three pitches later. Scott Rolen then hit a grounder to Desmond, who rifled a throw home in an attempt to get Phillips out at the plate. Nieves said the throw was "a little bit to the side," which forced him to lose track briefly of Phillips. The catcher never secured the ball in the pocket of his glove, and Nieves said when he turned back toward Phillips to make the tag, he didn't know how far away Phillips was.

Or, in this case, how close Phillips was. Phillips collided with Nieves, forcing the ball loose from the tip of Nieves's mitt. The runner was ruled safe.

As Phillips walked away from home plate he did some gesticulating that the Nationals didn't particularly care for.

"I think it's part of the game," Nieves said. "It was no problem with me when he run me over. It's part of the game. What he did after, you know, is what I didn't like. It looked like he scored a touchdown or something the way he celebrated ... I thought it was really unprofessional."

As Phillips dug into the batter's box with two outs in the ninth inning, Nieves said Phillips asked him, "Are you okay, Papi?" Nieves still was too upset about Phillips's showboating the previous inning to respond.

"He's that kind of guy that he's a good guy out of the field," Nieves said. "Maybe if you play with him you like him. But if you play against him, the things he does you kind of don't like it. I'm pretty sure he's a great guy off the field ... But maybe when he hit me and the whole situation he got really happy and that's the way he did it. But I'm pretty sure he knew he did it wrong. Hopefully. And hopefully he won't do it again."

Nieves said Phillips knew what was going to happen next. Desmond said everyone at Nationals Park knew what was going to happen next.

Batista's first offering drilled Phillips in the side. Nieves said Phillips did not say a word as he trotted down to first base.

"We didn't throw it at his head," Nieves said. "We hit him in the ribs. I think everybody in the ballpark kind of knew that that was going to happen. So he got hit, and I thought he got hit where he was supposed to. Not in the head. Obviously, we don't play like that. Miguel hit him in a good spot."

Crew chief Joe West, who was working behind home plate Saturday night, immediately ejected Batista from the game.

"In that kind of situation it looks suspicious, but Joe West is doing his job," Batista said. "If it looks suspicious he has the right to throw me out, but he was the only one that thought it was intentional. His bench was quiet. Ours was quiet after he threw me out. If you notice, there was a couple of pitches inside to Cabrera. He swung. Phillips, he actually got hit."

When asked if he felt he should have been warned, rather than tossed, Batista said:

"The way they got umpires now they don't actually give them enough room to call the game the way it is. They want everything to be too professional, and they're taking the human part of it. Pitchers make mistakes, throw the wrong pitch, guys will drop the ball, umpires will make a bad call, but that's what makes the game human. And I believe sometimes they're getting too much pressure to get things under control, and now sometimes you can't pitch too much inside, and as a pitcher you're just trying to back up a guy off the plate. If you're going to back him up, you have to throw way in just to scare him off. But they got orders to follow, and we got a game to win."

By Steve Yanda  |  June 6, 2010; 12:24 AM ET
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Next: Sunday's lineups


...I can't believe MLB puts both Joe West and Angel Hernandez on the same umpire crew -- talk about MatchLight, just add a spark because these two are already soaked with lighter fluid -- chips on their shoulders that don't belong in the game!

Plus you have the rookie on the crew, Dan Bellino, who called the (not a) balk on Livo last night. He'll fit in just fine. Add Bill Hohn to the crew, and that's the umpiring crew from you-know-where.

I think if tomorrow's game is close in the late innings, Riggleman (assuming he hasn't already been ejected by lard*** Joe West) should lift Dunn for OFFENSIVE subsitution purposes. His average is decent this year, but I just don't see how it's as high as it is given his lack of hitting with anyone on base (like the strikeouts and GIDP tonight). Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if he gets a day off tomorrow (which will probably hurt us anyway when he comes in to pinch hit in a key at-bat and fans).

Posted by: thepostischeap | June 6, 2010 1:28 AM | Report abuse

Thank you Miguel Batista. That is the way the game should be played. Everybody knew it was coming and he deserved it and like a true veteran you didnt do it on purpose. That is the way the game is play. He showed up your catcher and he got what was coming. Thank You!

Posted by: geai | June 6, 2010 2:25 AM | Report abuse

AK said Batista's fastball was 93 mph (off the scoreboard?). The MASN box said it was 91. There's a 2mph difference between two radar guns? I hope they're calibrated before SS's debut.

Another note on how the players played their roles in this incident. Dunn often chats up players while they stand on first base. This time, he kept his distance from Phillips.

Posted by: zadok1 | June 6, 2010 2:51 AM | Report abuse

If Pudge pats you on the back for something you did on the field, you can probably rest easy knowing that you did it right. Miguel put that pitch exactly where it belonged.

Posted by: beardo1 | June 6, 2010 2:52 AM | Report abuse

Good story and good reporting. Thank you Adam.

Posted by: logan9 | June 6, 2010 7:20 AM | Report abuse

Miguel Batista earned my eternal respect with that inside pitch to Phillips... he's all right...

Posted by: Ghost7 | June 6, 2010 8:14 AM | Report abuse

Eh, Batista still should have planted that ball in his ear.

And whether or not Joe West was doing his job as instructed, it doesn't change the fact that he's by far the worst umpire in MLB and needs to be fired immediately.

Posted by: CapsNut | June 6, 2010 8:45 AM | Report abuse

I think our pitchers (with a little cooperation from our catchers) ought to start drilling Joe West. Maybe our batters ought to expand the follow-throughs on our swings to accomplish a similar result to his head.

That arrogant porker can't possibly possess the reflexes to get out of the way, short of his overdue retirement.

Posted by: FergusonFoont | June 6, 2010 9:30 AM | Report abuse

It's becoming very unclear that we should resign Dunn. Here's his 2010 RISP data:
- Bases Empty: .324
- Runners On: .216
- RISP: 53 chances/.170
- RISP w/ 2 Outs: 23 chances/.000

That's a lot of runs and given our run differential a lot of games probably.

Posted by: natslifer | June 6, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

I thought that Batista was one of the guys on the firing line when Strasburg came up, but I think he has moved to the end of that line. I think that Stammen will move to the bullpen after today, and that Atilano has cemented his place in the lineup for now.

It seems that Tyler Walker and Sean Burnett have reason to be nervous today.


Posted by: kevincostello | June 6, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Why isn't this article in this morning's print addition of the WaPo? I was looking for it this morning, and all we got was the "gamer". This may be one of the most interesting stories of the year.

Posted by: kjhealey | June 6, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

I agree with kjh: a real baseball story, not carried by the paper read by most people earning over $100,000 or something like that.

Well, that's why there's been a mass migration to the internet and web sites that carry the good stuff.

I think Batista could have thrown a little higher. If he's going to be ejected anyway, why not inflict some pain?

As I've said elsewhere, all the umps should be fired, the union disbanded, and then rehired on a merit basis. Would Joe West and his ilk (there are way too many like him) make the cut?

Posted by: JohnRDC | June 6, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

MLB disbanded the umpires' union several years ago. They are now direct employees of MLB. That's part of the current problem with the umpires.

Posted by: bertbkatz | June 6, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Particularly lame gamer from Yanda in the print edition today. No mention at all of the obstruction call, the ejections, the play at the plate or the retaliation. No mention at all of the umpiring. Instead, a bunch of quotes from Riggleman about Atilano that were clearly gathered before the game. Yanda's "just the facts, ma'am" approach not only misses many of the facts, but also ignores the reality that any one game is part of a season-long story arc that needs to be reported. It's pretty clear that he approached the reporting of this game in a vacuum. Was he even aware of what has been going on with this team for the past week?

Yes, an extremely lame gamer from Yanda. Not as bad as Eli Saslow reporting from the Phillies clubhouse, but close.

Posted by: nunof1 | June 6, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

A pitcher should never throw at a batter. At least when Nieves got crunched, he was wearing protective gear. It's the baserunner's responsibility to try to score, and all Phillips did was lower his shoulder and barrel in -- just like any baserunner should do.

Posted by: Indydave | June 6, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

GREAT PLAY B. PHILLIPS.....Way to hustle, if the catcher gets in the way,flatten him!! Also great base running. Player of the game!!

Posted by: jdgolf115 | June 6, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Indy, he didn't get drilled for his Pete Rose on Ray Fosse imitation, he got drilled for showing off afterwards.

Posted by: Dutchml | June 6, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Indydave, you're completely off base.

Phillips didn't get hit for running over the catcher, he got hit for thumping his chest and showing up Nieves after the fact. You don't throw at guys heads in any circumstance, but drilling a guy in the hip is the way to police that stuff. Otherwise, the Nats are chumps who let someone take their lunch money.

To Phillps' credit, he took it like a man and sprinted down to first.

Excellent old school baseball there in the 9th, all the way around. And if you don't get that, then you don't get baseball.

Posted by: sec307 | June 6, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

anybody saying phillips should not have been hit either hasnt played the game or never was really showed the right way to play the game.

Posted by: nami322 | June 6, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Yanda wrote the NJ piece we're commenting on, by the way.

Posted by: nats24 | June 6, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Ian Desmond toughen up and demand respect, just toughen up and the other guy will at least have a decision to make. His decision was to easy.

Posted by: DMcCall2 | June 6, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

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