Bryce Harper wasn’t simply about to take a free base without standing up for himself.
After being drilled in the hip by Hunter Strickland’s heater in the eighth inning Monday, Harper charged the mound and exchanged punches with the right-hander before both benches quickly separated the pair. Speaking to reporters postgame, Harper explained the contentious decision to defend himself despite knowing he would likely face a suspension from the league office.
“When somebody comes at you like that and throws a 98-mph fastball where he did, I wasn’t very happy with it and took it into my hands,” Harper said, according to Jorge L. Ortiz of USA TODAY Sports. “A baseball’s a weapon, and to be able to use that to his advantage, what do you want to do in that situation? You never want to get suspended or anything like that, but sometimes you just have to go get ’em. You can’t hesitate.
“You either go to first base or go after him, and I decided to go after him.”
Monday’s eighth-inning at-bat between Harper and Strickland was the first meeting between the players since Harper walloped – and longingly admired – two massive home runs off Strickland in the 2014 NLDS, though Harper finds it difficult to believe the San Francisco Giants reliever would hold a grudge for nearly three seasons.
“I don’t want to go on a baseball field and try to fight somebody. Especially when it’s somebody that it’s in the past. It’s so in the past, it’s not even relevant anymore,” Harper said, according to Ortiz. “They won the World Series that year. I don’t think he should even be thinking about what happened in the first round. He should be thinking about wearing that ring home every single night.
“I don’t know why he did it or what he did it for, but I guess it happens.”