'I get emotional': Harper ejected as benches empty at Coors

May 15th, 2023

DENVER -- had fire in his eyes.

Make no mistake, nobody loves emotion on a baseball field more than him. Smash a home run? Flip a bat, spike it, stroll the bases. Get a big strikeout? Hop off the mound, pump a fist, scream. Harper is cool with it.

But he said Rockies pitcher Jake Bird crossed a line in the seventh inning Sunday afternoon during the Phillies’ 4-0 loss at Coors Field. Bird taunted the Phillies’ dugout after he escaped a jam to end the inning, prompting Harper to storm the field, benches and bullpens to clear and Harper and Bird to be ejected.

No punches were thrown.

“I get emotional,” Harper said. “I understand getting fired up for an inning and stuff like that. But once you make it about a team or make it about yourself and the other team, that’s when I’ve kind of got a problem with it.

“You guys saw my reaction. I wasn’t very happy. He kind of just did what he did and after that he kind of flew away and just like went into the dugout.”

A frustrating afternoon had been building to this moment. Poor defense in the first inning cost the Phillies a run. They did not get a hit with runners in scoring position. Phillies manager Rob Thomson got ejected in the sixth for arguing a called third strike on a 3-2 pitch to . It would have put runners on first and second with one out. The Phillies failed to get a review on a play likely to be overturned in the seventh because crew chief Jeff Nelson said bench coach Mike Calitri could not request a replay from the dugout phone.

Then Bird chirped.

Bird walked the first two batters in the top of the seventh, but he got the benefit of a double play before flied out to left to end the inning. Bird looked and shouted into the Phillies’ dugout. He smiled at one point, even sticking out his tongue a bit. He repeatedly slapped his glove.

Harper bolted from the dugout. Teammates followed.

“I appreciate my teammates for coming out with me and doing that,” Harper said. “Heat of the moment, that kind of thing.”

Harper wanted Bird, who mockingly waved him toward his side of the field. Harper pushed Rockies catcher Elias Díaz in pursuit, but Phillies third-base coach Dusty Wathan, hitting coach Kevin Long and others restrained him.

Harper returned from Tommy John surgery on May 2. Everybody thought about his elbow.

“It’s a little bit unsettling, understanding Harper’s elbow,” Thomson said. “But he’s protecting his teammates, and that’s what this group does. They protect each other. They fight for each other. And I’m proud of him for it.”

Said Harper: “I never want to put myself in danger of getting hurt or anything like that. But like I said, when anyone does anything to my teammates or anything like that, I don’t agree with that. That’s kind of how I react when people are coming after my team.”

and got the closest to Bird. Walker almost got to the Rockies' dugout before Colorado players held their ground. Bird had been ushered into the dugout by that point.

“Once we got out there, he kind of flew into the dugout and just went away and nobody really saw him after he did what he did,” Harper said.

Bird said he took things too far.

“I think I got to keep it within and to myself,” he said. “There’s nothing personal. I just got a little fired up.”

So if it wasn’t personal, who was he yelling and clapping at?

"You're just staring into space,” he said. “It's kind of like when you pitch sometimes you forget there are people in the crowd. I just got out of the inning."

So that was how the Phillies’ five-game winning streak ended. They have reached the quarter point of the season. They are 20-20.

“I think you’re only going to see us keep getting better,” Schwarber said. “I feel like we’re playing some pretty good baseball. Today didn’t go the way that we wanted to, but you want to erase that because I feel like the last six, seven games we’ve been playing pretty good. A quarter way through, I feel like you’re going to keep seeing a better version of us.”

And maybe an already tight-knit group became a little tighter Sunday.

“We all have each other’s backs,” Schwarber said. “Whenever somebody says something to one of our guys, there’s going to be 26 guys coming out.”