On Thursday morning a report emerged from USA Today by Bob Nightengale quoting anonymous MLB general managers saying they were now rooting against the Nationals. The resentment revolves specifically around Mike Rizzo's decision to shut down Stephen Strasburg right before the postseason. Rival MLB executives apparently don't like the move and think Rizzo is presumptuous to believe the Nationals will be in the playoffs for years to come.
Rizzo has now decided to respond and in firing back used a phrase he made famous back in May.
Speaking to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, Rizzo called the comments "chicken (bleep).'' Rizzo, from Chicago, then said, "that's not how we do things in my neighborhood.''
Rizzo also implied the statements came from jealousy, saying they could have come from a general manager whose team lost 120 games this season. The closest team to lose that many was the Astros who won 107. Their GM, Jeff Luhnow, praised Rizzo just recently for allowing him to speak with third base coach Bo Porter who will be Houston's manager next season.
Rizzo was exaggerating with the number and he may actually be wrong about it coming completely from envy. The first GM's quote suggests his team may still be in the playoffs.
"If we don't win the World Series, I don't care who does," one general manager told USA TODAY Sports, "as long as it's not those guys.
The second executive could be from a team already eliminated, but not enough information is given to conclude either way.
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.
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.
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats - A.J. Cole vs. Pirates - Tyler Glasnow
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
RHP Tyler Glasnow
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