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Maddon vs. Johnson settles down

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Maddon vs. Johnson settles down

The animosity drawn from Tuesdays pine tar incident between the Nationals and Rays carried over prominently in each teams managers pregame comments, but through Wednesdays 3-2 Washington win there was little substance to what looked like signs of a continued feud.

No, Joe Maddon didnt have the umpires check Stephen Strasburgs ball before the first pitch. No, Maddon and Joel Peralta didnt try to rile up Nats fans when he ran out prematurely from the dugout. And, no Maddon didnt mouth I want to tick these guys off, when he sent Peralta to the mound.

In fact, the rift between Maddon and Davey Johnson seems to have been squashed sometime between their pregame comments and the first pitch of the game.

After being called a weird wuss by Johnson, eyes were opened at 7:05 p.m. as umpire Jeff Nelson trotted to the mound to inspect the ball Strasburg was about to commence the game with.

I thought he was going to check my glove, but he didnt ask for that. He just wanted the baseball because I threw it in the dirt and I think Flores short-hopped to second or something like that, Strasburg said.

Johnson told the same story afterwards, that catcher Jesus Flores bounced it to the bag on a routine warm-up throw to second and the umpires were just being cautious.

We kind of had a laugh on the bench. When the umpire came out he wanted to look at the ball and he came out to look at it instead of asking for the ball because it bounced on the throw to second, he said.

Stras was getting ready to undress. He took his glove off, he had everything, and the ump said 'No, I just want the ball.' I mean, Zim came in and everybody was making fun, he's ready to take everything off and let them search him.

Things got interesting again at the end of the seventh inning as Peralta was warming in the bullpen with Nats lefty Sean Burnett on the mound. Burnett induced an inning-ending double play by Hideki Matsui that Maddon hadnt anticipated. He thought Peralta would have more time warming before the inning was over. Peralta ran out of the bullpen five or six strides before turning around and going back in.

Thats my fault because Matsui grounded into the double play so fast we could not do all the things that we wanted to do. So, get him back and let Burke Badenhop pitch to the first guy and then make the switch after that, he said.

Maddon basically balked in making the switch as he wanted Badenhop to remain in the game because their ninth hitter was due up in the next frame.

Peralta did end up making it in the game as Maddon summoned the right-hander as part of a double switch after the first batter of the eighth was retired. Several Tampa reporters thought they read Maddons lips on their local broadcast saying basically he was trying to irk the Nats by bringing him in the game.

Maddon didnt exactly deny saying it, but didnt offer up any confirmation either.

I say that a lot. I dont remember that honestly. I would absolutely admit to it, but I dont remember saying that, he said. Peralta was jacked up enough, he didnt need me to say anything to him.

When Peralta took the mound he did hear it from the Nationals crowd, they booed loudly as he approached the mound and scattered taunts throughout his appearance. But all in all, the fireworks of Johnson vs. Maddon was kept between them and set aside when the game started.

Even the players said they thought something was going to happen, it just never did.

You kind of expected something to happen especially after yesterday, but nothing really went down, Strasburg said.

There is one more chance of course as the Nationals host the Rays for the third game of the series on Thursday at Nats Park. Whether the feud is re-ignited or not, this sure has been a unique year for the Nationals both on and off the field.

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Benches clear in confrontation between Nats and Pirates

Benches clear in confrontation between Nats and Pirates

With the division title clinched the night before, it seemed the Nationals were poised for an uneventful series finale against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday afternoon. 

That wasn't to be, as the two clubs engaged in a benches clearing altercation in the bottom of the third inning. The tension started in the top of the frame, when Bryce Harper was injured while sliding to third base on a triple. The Nats took exception to Pirates third baseman Jung-ho Kang faking a tag on Harper, which may have led to the injury. 

So when Nats starter A.J. Cole threw behind Kang in the bottom of the inning, the near-fracas was ignited.

Cole was immediately ejected from the game, benches cleared, and each side exchanged words. The Pirates' Sean Rodriguez was also ejected from the game. 

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Nats close homestand against Pirates day after clinch

Nats close homestand against Pirates day after clinch

Nats (90-64) vs. Pirates (77-77) at PNC Park

Saturday night was a big party in Pittsburgh as the Nationals clinched their third NL East title in the last five years. On Sunday, they have a quick turnaround with a 1:35 p.m. start to finish off their final homestand.

Rookie A.J. Cole (1-2, 4.68) will get the start as the Nats now turn their sights towards securing home field advantage in the NL Division Series. He's coming off a two-run, four-inning outing against the Marlins.

Right-hander Tyler Glasnow (0-1, 4.11) will pitch for the Pirates. A rookie, Glasnow has never faced the Nationals before.

The Nationals lead the Dodgers, their likely NLDS opponent, by just 1 1/2 games. They need to stay ahead of them to secure home field advantage in the playoffs. If they each finish with the same record, the Dodgers will get the tiebreaker due to their head-to-head record this season.

First pitch: 1:35 p.m.
TV: MASN
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats - A.J. Cole vs. Pirates - Tyler Glasnow

NATS

CF Ben Revere
2B Wilmer Digo
RF Bryce Harper
3B Anthony Rendon
1B Clint Robinson 
SS Danny Espinosa
LF Brian Goodwin
C Jose Lobaton
RHP A.J. Cole

PIRATES

TBA
RHP Tyler Glasnow

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