Watch: Jonathan Papelbon and Bryce Harper fight in the dugout

Eliminated from postseason contention, the Washington Nationals have reached a new low Sunday afternoon. After Bryce Harper flied out in the bottom of the eighth inning, he exchanged words with All-Star closer Jonathan Papelbon as he approached the dugout. Papelbon appeared to be displeased with Harper’s effort running to first base.

The verbal confrontation continued as Harper entered the dugout. As the pair continued to argue back and forth, Papelbon reached for the likely National League MVP’s throat and shoved Harper into the bench.

The rest of the team descended on the pair and Papelbon and Harper were eventually separated. Manager Matt Williams removed Harper following the scuffle, but inexplicably allowed Papelbon to take the mound in the top of the ninth. Things went from worst to worster (yes, that word applies here), as Papelbon allowed a leadoff walk followed by a two-run home run to Andres Blanco to turn a 4-4 tie into a 6-4 deficit. The Nationals continued imploding from there, committing two errors and allowing a total of eight runs. Papelbon was responsible for five of the runs, two of them earned, and left to a rousing chorus of boos.

This should be the nail in the coffin for Matt Williams. He had already largely lost the clubhouse. Allowing Papelbon to take the field after putting the best player on the team in a chokehold is mind-boggling. It’s hard to imagine Papelbon will pitch another inning with the Nationals this season, but the damage has already been done. He has posted a 2.38 ERA in 21 games since being acquired while blowing two saves. Drew Storen imploded upon the addition of Papelbon, and Harper was already frustrated with the closer to begin with after Papelbon threw at Manny Machado in rage earlier in the week.

During the postgame press conference, Papelbon copped to being in the wrong, but stated that it’s important to “play the game the right way.” Choking has been part of the game for Papelbon since coming over from Philadelphia, so perhaps he was a bit confused.

The best part of the whole ordeal for the Nationals is that they were forced to pick up Papelbon’s 2016 option as a condition of the trade that brought him to Washington. After just two months, there will be a lot of fences to be mended if Papelbon’s tenure in the nation’s capital is to be salvaged.

 

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