They’d lost a sixth game in succession and looked awful doing it, so the Washington Nationals scarcely needed a reason to be upset. They found one anyway.
Andrelton Simmons’ fifth-inning sliding kick — or kicking slide, depending on your perspective — that dislodged the ball from third baseman Yunel Escobar’s glove and removed several hunks of skin from the former Brave’s left hand left the Nats in a snit. Never mind that they lost 8-4 to the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field to fall to 7-13 and eight games out of first place. Never mind that they made four errors. The team projected by many as baseball’s best sat in its clubhouse Monday night filled with what the Nats deemed righteous indignation.
Said Bryce Harper: “Andrelton plays with a lot of energy, but that was a B.S. play. That slide was definitely uncalled for.”
Said Ian Desmond: “He really didn’t slide at all. It was a pretty ugly slide. You’ve got to be way smarter than that. There’s a right way to play the game, and that’s not the right way.”
Said manager Matt Williams, who was demonstrably angry when checking on Escobar, who was removed from the game: “My initial reaction was that (Escobar) was pretty cut up.”
Did Williams believe the slide was clean? “I’m not going to comment on that,” he said, although the look on his face was comment enough.
Said Dan Uggla, now a Nat but once Simmons’ teammate: “Look at the facts. One of our guys got hurt. You can call it a late slide, a clean slide, a dirty slide — who’s to say what’s what? … It’s unfortunate the way it happened.”
Simmons would say afterward that he expected to be plunked on his next at-bat, and sure enough … Rafael Martin hit Simmons with a pitch as the shortstop led off the seventh, prompting the Braves’ Jonny Gomes — who wasn’t even playing — to be ejected for stepping out of the dugout in protest. (Freddie Freeman had been tossed earlier for disputing a checked-swing strikeout. It was that sort of night.)
Said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez of the play in question: “It was a late slide. I was worried about Simmons getting hurt. But there was nothing malicious about it.”
Later Desmond would break up a double play by taking out Jace Peterson. Williams saw that as an example of his team playing, to borrow Desmond’s phrase, the right way. “The slide into second base by Dezzie is clean,” Williams said.
This was the first of a three-game set, the first of 19 meetings between the teams that have won the past three National League East titles. With the Nats buying Max Scherzer and spending twice as much on payroll this season as the downsized Braves, the rivalry figured to cool this season. We all might want to rethink that one.
Here are two views of the slide:
From myajc: The touted Nats gaze upward at the Braves.