The Washington Nationals are playing their best baseball of the season and closing in on first place in the NL East. They also figure to be dealing with some controversy after an ugly incident in their latest win as they close out a three-game series with the visiting Florida Marlins.
Washington posted its sixth win in seven games Saturday, beating Florida 7-3 to move past the Marlins in the division standings and within a half-game of first-place Atlanta.
However, the night’s most talked-about moment surely will be Washington outfielder Marlon Byrd’s outburst. It came after he was called out on strikes to end the sixth inning, when first-base umpire Bill Miller ruled that Byrd went around on a checked swing with the count full.
Byrd, thinking he had drawn a walk, was about halfway to first when he realized Miller had called him out. Byrd began arguing with the umpire, and first-base coach Don Buford stepped between them.
As the Nationals took the field for the top of the seventh, Byrd continued arguing on his way to left, and Miller ejected him.
Byrd then headed toward Miller, and second-base umpire Joe Brinkman tried to get in the player’s way. They collided, sending Brinkman tumbling to his back on the infield dirt. He was attended to by a Washington trainer.
“I saw Byrd running toward my partner, Bill Miller. I put my arm out. I thought I could get in front,” said Brinkman, who had a red scrape on the side of his forehead. “I don’t know what the intent was.”
Several Nationals players and manager Frank Robinson ran over toward Miller, and eventually Byrd walked off the field.
“Didn’t you hear me?” Byrd said after the game. “I’m only talking about the victory.”
It marred what should have been an enjoyable night for Washington, which led 4-3 after five innings and tacked on one run in the seventh and two in the eighth.
The slumping Marlins, who have dropped nine of 11, will turn to right-hander A.J. Burnett to get them back on track. Winless in his last five starts, Burnett missed an outing due to an inflamed right elbow, but came back with a solid six-inning effort in Florida’s 5-4 loss at Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
Burnett yielded three unearned runs and four hits, striking out two and walking two. He did not receive a decision.
Burnett is winless since a 6-4 victory at Philadelphia on April 29. He is 0-3 since despite yielding three earned runs or fewer in all but one of his last five outings. Burnett’s 2.91 ERA ranks fourth among Florida starters, and 11th in the National League.