WASHINGTON – The Chicago Cubs had already watched plenty of the Washington Nationals’ might. They didn’t care to see their scrappiness as well.
Two Nationals’ steals and a swing on a 3-0 pitch in the fifth inning Thursday first caught the ire of Cubs bench coach Jamie Quirk. The Nationals had a five-run lead at the time and had been crushing the Cubs going on three consecutive nights.
When the dust finally settled an inning later, the benches cleared twice without punches being thrown, Quirk was ejected and so were Cubs players Steve Clevenger and Manny Corpas, along with the Nationals’ Michael Gonzalez.
“You’re up 7-2 and Lendy Castillo is pitching,” Clevenger said. “It’s 3-0. You don’t swing 3-0 in that situation but you know, things happen.”
According to Nationals beat writers, the universal defense in the Washington clubhouse for not easing up was a loss to the Braves earlier this season while leading by nine runs. That it had been clear all series that the Cubs didn’t show the offense to pull off a similar feat never seemed to be addressed.
“I think I’d be pretty pissed off if I was getting my teeth kicked in all weekend too but you can’t lay down,” Nationals rookie Bryce Harper said.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum didn’t exactly refute Harper’s assessment of the series.
“It’s probably one of the biggest butt whoopings I’ve ever gotten in my career as a coach or a player,” manager Dale Sveum said. “I don’t remember getting manhandled that bad in any kind of series I’ve ever been a part of. Hopefully these young guys and a team that we’re trying to build can look back and learn a lot from it.”
Clevenger came to the bench to change his catcher’s glove and sparks began to fly. Quirk could be seen yelling at Nationals third-base coach Bo Porter, who then brought more attention to things when he approached the Cubs’ dugout.
Benches and bullpens emptied, but no punches were thrown. Quirk was ejected, though, while Porter was allowed to stay in the game.
“Quirk was ejected for screaming out obscenities at the third-base coach,” umpire crew chief Jerry Lane told a pool reporter. “That was the ejection for the coach. The fracas was started because all that stuff happened and that was instigated by Quirk screaming out at Porter. And the obscenities that he screamed out I just felt was inappropriate and that’s what caused everything.”
Porter was ordered to stay in the third-base coaching box the rest of the game but avoided ejection.
“(Porter) got very close to being out of order himself,” Lane said. “Had he got into the dugout and started a fracas, he would have been ejected. But I thought this was all stemming from what Jamie Quirk did and he started it, so I got the person that started it.”
An inning later things got interesting again. Castillo appeared to throw at Harper with his first pitch. The benches emptied again with some aggressive pushing going on. Clevenger first pushed Michael Morse and then reached out at Desmond.
“The ball got away from Lendy and benches cleared,” Clevenger said. “We weren’t trying to throw at him intentionally. It’s just the way the game is played.”
Anthony Rizzo, who had his 12th home run among his three hits, saw some positives in the way the Cubs defended themselves.
“We have to all pull for each other or it’s going to be a long remaining 25 games,” Rizzo said. “We want to build momentum and get better. This is an opportunity for everybody in here, including myself. We just have to keep going.”
Despite the drubbing this week, the Nationals provided the lowly Cubs with some inspiration.
“It’s frustrating coming in here and they beat up on us bad,” Rizzo said. “It leaves a sour taste in my mount and probably everybody else’s mouth but that’s the game. Talking to (Ryan) Zimmerman at first base, he’s been here since 2005, 2006 losing 100 games and not being good.
“I asked him what it’s like being good. He said it’s awesome. You can see it. You can see the energy they play with. In a way you’re happy for all of them. They work hard at it and they have a good team over there.”